In the wake of a growing sexual harassment scandal that has been roiling UNAIDS and civil society, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest AIDS organization that provides and supports HIV care to more than 889,000 patients in 39 countries globally, including Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America & the Caribbean and the United States, is calling on the United Nations to outsource and appoint an independent third-party to investigate the case, which many believe was grossly mishandled by UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé and his superiors at the UN. In light of the scandal and the bungled initial investigation, AHF recently called for Sidibé to step down or be fired and for a highly qualified woman to be appointed in his place.
CNN & others report today that the United Nations has reopened an investigation into the case, reporting that, "The new investigation will be conducted by the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services, and 'no UNAIDS officials will be involved in this case going forward' Sophie Barton-Knott, a UNAIDS spokesperson said in a statement Friday."
However, AHF and others—notably Paula Donovan and Stephen Lewis, Co-Directors of AIDS-Free World and its Code Blue Campaign to end impunity for sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel—decried the news that the investigation will remain under UN auspices and each organization is calling for an independent body outside the UN to take over the reopened investigation, with Code Blue proposing a Temporary Independent Oversight Panel.
"It is crucial as a matter of justice as well as for the reputation of both UNAIDS—and the UN—that an investigation of sexual harassment allegations at the highest echelons of UNAIDS has been reopened; however, it is fallacy to think that the UN itself can credibly or fairly conduct such an investigation," said Michael Weinstein, President, AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "Since the debacle of the first investigation, several more women have come forward with similar allegations against Dr. Loures. Sadly, everything about this new investigation appears to suggest 'optics' rather than a genuine desire for a true and transparent investigation: the fox-in-the-henhouse fact that a UN body will conduct the investigation, that UNAIDS buried the announcement of this new investigation in the media graveyard of a Friday afternoon—and has yet to post any statement on its website. The United Nations must arrange for a truly independent third-party to be appointed to conduct a robust, transparent and impartial investigation of this sexual harassment case."