Paula Donovan, Senior Advisor in the office of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa, has worked in international relations for 19 years, with a particular focus on HIV/AIDS since the mid-1990s. Following a decade of work in the domestic non-profit field, Ms. Donovan began her career in international development at the American affiliate of the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF USA. In 1991, Ms. Donovan joined UNICEF’s international headquarters, where she first managed global communications and advocacy for the UN children’s agency’s worldwide campaign to support breastfeeding and end the illegal promotion of infant formula. In 1996, she was appointed Executive Aide to UNICEF’s Deputy Executive Director in charge of global programs and policies, emergency operations, and communications.
In 2000, Ms. Donovan was posted to Nairobi, Kenya as UNICEF’s Regional Advisor on HIV/AIDS for the 23 countries of Eastern and Southern Africa. She was subsequently recruited by UNIFEM, the UN women’s agency, as its Africa-wide Gender and AIDS Advisor. In 2003, Ms. Donovan left the UN but remained in Kenya to independently organize an “International Women’s AIDS Run,” Africa’s first all-women’s long-distance road race, designed to raise awareness of, and to acknowledge the millions of women across the continent who care for those left sick or orphaned by AIDS. The race, which was the curtain-raiser for the international AIDS conference held in Nairobi in 2003, registered 11,000 female runners from over a dozen countries, and is now an annual event. In 2001, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed a former Canadian UN ambassador and humanitarian his first “Special Envoy on AIDS” to advocate with African and western leaders, the international community and the world public for a stronger and more urgent global response to the pandemic, and Ms. Donovan became part-time advisor to the envoy, traveling with him to AIDS-affected African countries. Upon her return to the US in 2004, Ms. Donovan took up her current full-time role as Senior Advisor to the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy. In her capacity as advisor on women’s and children’s issues, Ms. Donovan this year will assume the added role of policy consultant on children and AIDS with the Harvard School of Public Health’s Francois X. Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights.
Born and raised in the Boston area, Ms. Donovan graduated in 1977 from Fairfield University in Connecticut with a B.A. in English, and returned to the university’s graduate school in the 1980s to earn a Masters degree in Corporate and Political Communication. She now lives in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and travels extensively in Africa.