KAMPALA - The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has said that they expect their new executive director Winnie Byanyima to assume office in November.
“We expect Byanyima to take up her position with UNAIDS in November,” the agency's communications manager, Michael Hollingdale, told New Vision on Saturday.
Hollingdale, however, said they did not have an exact start date for the outgoing Oxfam International executive director.
Winnie, as she is fondly called by many, said in a tweet last month that she was honoured to be asked by the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to lead UNAIDS "at such a critical time in the response to HIV."
“I embrace the role with humility, passion, and faith that we can end this pandemic by 2030. I look forward to joining UNAIDS team and working closely with co-sponsors and partners to remove barriers to prevention, treatment, and care,” the 60-year-old said.
Although she said the end of AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 is a goal that is within the world’s reach, she did not underestimate the scale of the challenge ahead.
“Working with all its partners, UNAIDS must continue to speak up for the people left behind and champion human rights as the only way to end the epidemic,” Winnie, the former Mbarara Municipality MPs, said.
AIDS-related illnesses have killed 35 million people since the first cases were reported more than 35 years ago.
Guterres appointed Winnie on August 14 as the UNAIDS ED and United Nations Under-Secretary-General, following a comprehensive selection process that involved a search committee constituted by members of the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board.
UNAIDS said its committee of cosponsoring organizations made the final recommendation on the appointment to Guterres.
Winnie succeeds Michel Sidibe who stepped down in May after he was accused of creating "a patriarchal culture tolerating harassment and abuse of authority."
Sidibe left UNAIDS after a decade-long tenure to become Mali's health minister. His divisive era led AIDS experts to voice concerns over the future of the UN body, which UNAIDS leads a global effort to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
Guterres said Winnie brings a wealth of experience and commitment in harnessing the power of government, multilateral agencies, the private sector and civil society to end the HIV and AIDS crisis from communities around the world.
Uganda’s HIV fight
Observers say Winnie ascends UNAIDS leadership when Uganda has already achieved its HIV tipping point, new infections are dropping to 50,000 a year, HIV-related deaths are decreasing to 25,000 and about 75% of people who need ARVs are getting them.
Against UNAIDS’ 90-90-90 strategy, Uganda is at 81-89-78.
The question now on everyone's lips is whether she will keep an eye on Ugandans in her work and assist in areas they are not performing well, especially collaboration with civil society and non-governmental organizations, adhering to the known best practices, involving people with HIV, sourcing for more funding and fighting corruption within the HIV ecosystem.
HIV/Aids activists say her appointment needs to inspire and motivate Ugandans to sprint back to the front of great performers in the HIV fight.
They say Winnie’s role now will be to harness the power of governments, multilateral agencies, the private sector and civil society to end the HIV and AIDS crisis in the world.
“While it is a national honour and opportunity for a Ugandan to serve at that level, it is also a challenge and an illuminated position for her and Uganda to shine,” a consultant on HIV/Aids said on condition of anonymity.
ALSO RELATED TO THIS STORY
Winnie Byanyima appointed new UNAIDS executive director