The Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+) congratulates Winnie Byayima on her appointment as the new UNAIDS Executive Director. We wish her all the best in this critical role as sheleads UNAIDS in global, regional and national HIV responses. We are particularly pleased that a feminist woman has been appointed to this role for the first time.
As described in a joint letter in the The Lancet on July 10, 2019, we call on Ms Byanyima to focus on four key areas in order to get the global AIDS response back on track:
- Closing the gap in political will and funding and ensuring that the world again steps up commitment from governments and donors.
- Partner with people living with and affected by HIV, key populations, and young people to deliver tailor-made technical, social, and political strategies for these communities.
- Lead transformations in legal and policy environments despite opposition—removing harmful laws, including those that criminalise some of the most affected populations, and accelerating uptake of evidence-based policy.
- Lead the cultural and institutional changes needed at UNAIDS to address abuse of power and establish accountable leadership.
Only 21.6 million of the 36.9 million people living with HIV globally are accessing treatment. That is less than two-thirds of people who need treatment for their own health and to prevent further transmission of HIV. Reaching the remaining 15.8 million will not be achieved by doing more of the same. The 41% of people living with HIV who do not have access to life-saving treatment now are the ones harder to reach – key populations living with HIV, the most disadvantaged rural and urban populations, the most disempowered financially and the most vulnerable because of gender inequalities.
“Winnie Byanyima faces an incredibly difficult task in leading UNAIDS at a time when the HIV response is in a crisis. She must place the needs of the poorest and most marginalised members of society at the start and centre, and put the last mile first. Today’s epidemic is driven by marginalisation, stigma, and discrimination, resulting in poor health care, insufficient access to treatment, and substantial power imbalances. Full decriminalisation of key populations is non-negotiableto ensure that we have the means to protect ourselves and improve the quality of our lives as more than half of new HIV infections are among key populations. We are ready to work with her to take bold action and find solutions,” said Rico Gustav, Executive Director of the GNP+.
We urge Winnie Byantima, in her role as incoming Executive Director, to engage with global key population networks at every opportunity to further discuss full decriminalisation of all key populations, across regions and in-country. At the country level, we call on the new Executive Director to convene and coordinate a robust HIV response, speak up for and support the meaningful engagement of communities living with and affected by HIV (including those from key populations), support the development of inclusive and integrated national health strategies, advocate for bold national AIDS plans that mobilises all sectors and addresses structural barriers and ensure adequate investment in priority areas based on what works.
We are looking forward to working with her in this role as we work collectively to ensure the rights of all people living with HIV and key populations.