Former Aids Agency Chief Seeks Top UN Position


The outgoing director-general of the National Agency for the Country of AIDs (NACA), Sani Aliyu, is one of the five global health experts contesting for the position of Executive Director, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

Mr Aliyu, a medical doctor and microbiologist, announced his resignation as NACA chief on Tuesday. President Muhammadu Buhari has promptly appointed a replacement. No reason was given for Mr Aliyu’s resignation.

On Tuesday, Mr Aliyu’s candidacy got a boost as Nigeria’s immediate past health minister, Isaac Adewole, endorsed him for the job.

In an opinion piece obtained by PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday, Mr Adewole said Mr Aliyu “had made a lot of impact in the health sector within a short period”.

He also said the international organisation is going through its most challenging leadership transition “and the world is watching with great anticipation”.

Mr Adewole, who served under President Muhammadu Buhari in his first term, said though all candidates running for the position have made significant contributions in their respective fields, “Mr Aliyu has the experience to get the work done”.

“The five candidates running for the position of UNAIDS Executive Director have each no doubt made significant contributions in their respective fields of endeavour.

“Leading UNAIDS into the next era demands much more. Of the five, one candidate has the necessary mix of skills, experience, and temperament to hit the ground running, bringing people together and getting people to do the greatest things – Dr Sani Aliyu, the remarkable infectious diseases specialist and Director General of Nigeria’s National Agency for the Control of AIDS,” he said.

“Our health system is decentralised, with responsibility for primary and secondary health services decentralised among the 37states and local government. Each state has its independent minister or commissioner of health, its facilities and staff and their budgets and policies.

“Making little progress in this environment is difficult. The kind of progress we have seen under Dr Aliyu’s leadership has been phenomenal. Dr Aliyu tapped into Nigeria’s secret asset – we have lots of incredibly capable, well trained and competent people who, with the right leadership and incentives, can do incredible things.

“Dr Aliyu has engaged them together with political leaders and private sector leaders at national and sub-national levels, and mobilised enormous resources for the AIDS response through such strategic engagements,” Mr Adewole said.

Sterling Qualities

He also said Mr Aliyu’s first step as the head of NACA was to go to the Global Fund’s headquarters in Geneva “to negotiate the restoration of the Global Fund grant.

“This gave us an early taste of his no-nonsense leadership qualities. The integrity and trust Dr Aliyu commands has turned Nigeria’s AIDS response into Development partners’ comfort zone for investment. Only recently, the United States government honoured Dr Aliyu as a PEPFAR hero,” he said.

Mr Aliyu, a medical doctor and microbiologist, announced his resignation as NACA chief on Tuesday and President Muhammadu Buhari has promptly appointed a replacement. No reason was given for Mr Aliyu’s resignation.


Mr Aliyu is among five candidates contesting for the position of the Executive Director of UNAIDS. The others are:

Winnie Byanyima:

She is the Executive Director of the global aid agency, Oxfam. She is an expert on women’s rights, democratic governance and peace-building. She served 11 years in the Ugandan Parliament and has served as the African Union Commission and as Director of Gender and Development at the United Nations Development Program. She is the only woman on the short-list.

Salim Abdool Karim:

He is the Director of the Centre for the AIDS Program of Research (CAPRISA), South Africa and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa.

Chris Beyrer:

He is a Professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Bernard Haufiku: He is a former Minister of Health and Social Services of Namibia. He is a medical doctor and currently the health adviser to Namibia’s deputy president.

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