International Health Professor to Serve as UNAIDS Special Advisor to Executive Director

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September 1, 2021 – Dr. Matthew Kavanagh, a Georgetown professor, will serve as special advisor to the executive director for policy, advocacy, and knowledge at the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.

He is an assistant professor of international health at the School of Nursing & Health Studies and director of the Global Health Policy & Politics Initiative at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law.

Winnie Byanyima, the organization’s executive director, announced Kavanagh’s one-year appointment last week. He will take leave from Georgetown during this opportunity, which begins today.

Dr. Matthew Kavanagh, assistant professor of international health, has been named special advisor to the executive director for policy, advocacy, and knowledge at the United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS.

“Matt is a longtime HIV policy leader, researcher, and activist who many in UNAIDS will know well,” Byanyima.

Kavanagh will “work with us to advance a set of policy and advocacy work growing out of the new Global AIDS Strategy,” she said, noting that his role includes service on the cabinet.

Multifaceted Role

The political scientist, added Byanyima, will have a specific focus on ongoing and emerging efforts in the areas of “human rights and gender, HIV financing, knowledge management, and influence,” as well as collaborating with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS “to help shape policy, advocacy, and knowledge-management agendas linked to the new inequality framework.” 

As a part of his work at Georgetown, Kavanagh has played an instrumental role in the development of the HIV Policy Lab and the COVID Law Lab. (Visit Kavanagh’s Georgetown biography.)

“As the pandemics of HIV and COVID-19 collide worldwide, this is a critical moment in the global AIDS response, in which policies and strategies to tackle inequality will determine the success or failure of disease response for decades to come,” Kavanagh said. “I’m honored by the opportunity to take our work at Georgetown on pandemic policies, laws, and politics to a global stage to support the life-saving work of the United Nations.”

Important Opportunity’

Dr. Jennifer Huang Bouey, chair of the department, said she is delighted by the news of this appointment.

“This is an important opportunity for Matt and reflects his achievements as a political scientist,” she said, reflecting on how this role underlines Kavanagh’s expertise and future opportunities for student learning.

“Matt has exhibited great leadership through his passion for human rights and health equity, his empathy for underserved populations, and his deep understanding of politics and policy,” Bouey added. “I am sure Matt will return to our department with valuable experience to expand Georgetown University’s global health network and to enrich our vibrant classroom discussion on global health.”

By Bill Cessato