"We look at her as a person who is passionate about marginalized people."
HEALTH | HIV & AIDS
KAMPALA - People living with HIV in Uganda have hailed the appointment of Ugandan diplomat Winnie Byanyima as the new executive director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS).
They said she is a "good manager and mobiliser".
The group recognized the "historic decision" by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, to appoint Byanyima to the post.
"She has passion for spearheading the fight against HIV and AIDS that has ravaged Africa for many years,” said Stella Kentutsi, the executive director of National Forum of People Living with HIV and AIDS in Uganda (NAFOPHANU).
Kentutsi told reporters in Mengo, Kampala that in her new role, the departing Oxfam International executive director will foster more partnership in Uganda towards the fight against HIV.
"We look at her as a person who is passionate about marginalized people, a human rights advocate and a politician who understands issues of women since HIV and AIDS affects more women than men," she said.
Byanyima, 60, wields a wealth of experience - spanning 30 years - in political leadership, diplomacy and humanitarian engagement.
Kentutsi added that having worked with Oxfam, dealing with disasters, Byanyima understands that once the health system is strengthened, funds will be appropriately distributed.
"UNAIDS engages donors to fund HIV and AIDS projects such as PERFAR, and considering that Byanyima she has been a mobilizer, she will be able to engage at a global level for more funding and medicines for Uganda."
HIV activist Milly Katana agreed, saying that Byanyima, wife of Ugandan Opposition politician Dr. Kizza Besigye, will place Uganda top on the agenda.
Uganda is moving towards achieving the global goal of 90-90-90 by 2020. This means having 90% of all people knowing their HIV status, 90% of HIV patients accessing treatment and 90% of these people have their viral load suppressed.
“There is no other person like her, she understands gender issues and so she is a better-placed person to get us out of the pandemic," said Katana.
Sumayiyah Nakimuli, a member of Champion Adolescent Girls and Young Women, said Byanyima’s appointment is timely since she will boost issues affecting the youth, which for so long have been marginalized.
She will advocate for youth policies, she added.
Richard Sserunkuma, the co-ordinator of Positive Men’s Union, said Byanyima has the expertise, competence and has been a politician.
Winnie Byanyima profile:
Byanyima began her career as a champion of marginalised communities and women 30 years ago as an MP in Uganda's Parliament. She served two consecutive terms, representing Mbarara Municipality from 1994 until 2004.
In 2004, she became the director of Women and Development at the African Union Commission, working on the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, an international human rights instrument that became an important tool for reducing the disproportionate effect of HIV on the lives of women in Africa.
She has served as the director of the Gender Team in the Bureau for Development Policy at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) from 2006.
Byanyima holds an advanced degree in mechanical engineering (in energy conservation and the environment) from the Cranfield Institute of Technology and an undergraduate degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Manchester.
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