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Winnie Byanyima appointed Executive Director of UNAIDS

Ugandan diplomat and humanitarian, Winnie Byanyima has been appointed as the new Executive Director of UNAIDS by the United Nations Secretary-General. She brings to the role more than 30 years of experience in political leadership and is set to advance a people-centered development agenda



The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, has appointed Winnie Byanyima as the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Executive Director and United Nations Under-Secretary-General following a comprehensive selection process. UNAIDS currently leads and inspires the world to achieve the shared vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.

A search committee made up of members of the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board made the final recommendation on the appointment in August this year. The organisation stands firm in this appointment stating that Byanyima brings a wealth of experience and commitment in harnessing the power of governments, multilateral agencies, the private sector and civil society to advance a people-centered development agenda.

Reacting to her new position, Byanyima, “I am excited to be joining UNAIDS and am looking forward to working with all our partners to help drive the HIV response forward and to build fairer, healthier and happier societies, particularly for women and girls and for all groups of people shut out and left behind.”

Prior to her UNAIDS appointment the diplomat and humanitarian served as the Secretariat’s Executive Director at Oxfam International since May 2013.


Chair of Oxfam Board of Supervisors, Dr Henrietta Campbell, said in a press statement, “I thank our International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima for her leadership, energy and commitment to our mission in tackling poverty and inequality. Whilst it is with much regret to us that Winnie is leaving Oxfam, we wish her every success.”

In the last year Oxfam has reported a reach of 22.3 million people through their long-term development programs and humanitarian interventions, including partnerships with more than 3,700 local civil society organizations.

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“Winnie has been a hugely influential figure during her tenure here, particularly in launching a significant organizational restructure that has helped to embed Oxfam’s work and our decision-making more firmly in the Global South, including relocating our International Secretariat to Nairobi, all to be closer to the people we exist to serve.”


Byanyima was born in Mbarara District in the Western Region of Uganda. She went on to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Manchester, becoming the first female Ugandan to become an Aeronautical Engineer. Her first impressive fete of many.

Byanyima left her first job as a flight engineer for Uganda Airlines and joined the armed rebellion or the National Resistance Army (NRA) during the 1981–1986 Ugandan Bush War. Despite growing up in the same household as current Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, Byanyima does not share his ideologies or support his presidency.

After the NRA won that war, she served as Uganda’s ambassador to France from 1989 until 1994. She then served two consecutive terms as a member of parliament, representing Mbarara Municipality from 1994 until 2004. She was then appointed director of the Directorate of Women, Gender and Development at the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


In her new position at UNAIDS is concurrent with her service as a United Nations Under-Secretary-General. Additionally, prior to Oxfam she served as the director of the Gender Team in the Bureau for Development Policy at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) from 2006.