Executive Director of the UNAIDS Hon Winnie Byanyima is standing by her public endorsement of President Yoweri Museveni and the National Resistance Movement (NRM)’s efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Uganda.
Mrs Byanyima stressed on Tuesday that her praising of President Museveni was not political, but in line with her new role as the head of a global organization that is fighting to eliminate HIV.
Byanyima took a lot of heat on social media, mostly from the political opposition, for her comments in which she thanked President Museveni’s leadership in combating HIV, which peaked at the time he took over power in the mid-1980s.
“I salute the leadership in our country starting with the president who started fighting against HIV even before he was our president,” Byanyima remarked yesterday.
According to the UNAIDS boss, Museveni took on the HIV scourge in the midst of the bush war, when he noticed that people were dying of a sexually transmitted illness.
“He took on the issue, spoke about it in the struggle and when the revolution happened, the prevention campaign started on day one. It was their (Museveni and NRM) leadership that has led to these achievements in the country.
Winnie Byanyima’s comments attracted outrage, with several commentators on social media questioning which she would publicly endorse a person that she and her husband Col Dr Kizza Besigye have spent decades fighting.
In response however, Byanyima described these attacks as “ridiculous.”
“I’m not speaking as (Kizza Besigye’s) wife, but as UN Under-Secretary General and UNAIDS Executive Director… I’m fighting AIDS,” she said.
Byanyima has often had to explain herself amid speculation on her ties with President Museveni.
Last year, when the two met on the sidelines of the global leadership meeting in Davos Switzerland, she explained that in such meetings, the two discuss issues affecting ordinary people.
“I meet Museveni at global and African meetings. I talk to him about regional and Ugandan issues. He is the president of Uganda.” She said.