August 14, 2019 | Health Justice


UNAIDS appoints African feminist leader, Winnie Byanyima, as its next Executive Director

Jamila Headley (Health GAP): 1-347-263-8438|

(New York, NY)The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Gutteres, announced today the appointment of Winnie Byanyima as the next Executive Director of the United Nations Joint Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). 

Byanyima, a Ugandan human rights advocate and former Member of Uganda’s Parliament, will come to UNAIDS from Oxfam International, where she has served as Executive Director for the past 6 years. She will take up the position as UNAIDS’ next leader—and the first woman to be appointed in this role—at a pivotal time in the global HIV response. 

“AIDS is inarguably a global crisis. Winnie Byanyima is stepping up to the plate during a do-or-die period. She must lead the response by the United Nations family of organizations—and the world—in delivering a bold strategy to close a yawning gap in political will and funding for the HIV response; combat harmful laws and practices that criminalize and marginalize the communities most affected by HIV, in particular gay men, trans women, sex workers, and people who use drugs; work with people living with HIV to accelerate the uptake of effective HIV treatment and prevention technologies and evidence-based service-delivery models worldwide; and address the alarmingly high rates of new infections among women in sub-Saharan Africa, among other daunting challenges. She must also lead real cultural and institutional transformation and work to prevent sexual harassment and abuse of power within UNAIDS itself,” said Jamila Headley, Health GAP’s Managing Director. 

A recent report released by UNAIDS shows that, despite major progress and scientific advances, much of the hardest work in ending the AIDS crisis remains ahead. Last year at least 770,000 people died of AIDS-related causes, and around 1.7 million people became newly infected with HIV worldwide. More than half of all new infections were among men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people, and people who use drugs—communities who face violence, criminalization, stigma, and discrimination.  In the coming years, against this backdrop, Byanyima must inspire the world and lead the charge towards achieving universal access to HIV prevention and treatment, and ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

“Winnie Byanyima has an established track record as a feminist leader and human rights defender,”  said Asia Russell, Executive Director of Health GAP. “She must seize a once-in-a-generation opportunity to defeat deadly inequities that are resulting in needless AIDS deaths and new HIV infections, and help galvanize the world towards ending the AIDS pandemic.”


Note for Editors: Health GAP’s Executive and Managing Directors, and other civil society advocates, published a letter in The Lancet on July 10, 2019 describing priority actions the next UNAIDS Executive Director must take in order to get the global AIDS response back on track.  




Health GAP is an international advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all people living with HIV have access to affordable life-saving medicines. Our team pairs pragmatic policy work with audacious grassroots action to win equitable access to treatment, care and prevention for people living with and affected by HIV worldwide. We are dedicated to eliminating barriers to universal access to affordable life-sustaining medicines for people living with HIV/AIDS as key to a comprehensive strategy to confront and ultimately stop the AIDS pandemic. We believe that the human right to life and to health must prevail over the pharmaceutical industry’s excessive profits and expanding patent rights.