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16 November 2012

Global Fund head targets killer diseases

The Global Fund's new executive director said he will move quickly to raise fresh money and release funding to combat the killer diseases Aids, malaria and tuberculosis.

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The Global Fund's new executive director, Dr Mark Dybul, said he will move quickly to raise fresh money and release funding to combat the killer diseases Aids, malaria and tuberculosis.

In an interview on Thursday shortly after his appointment to head the epidemic-fighting agency based in Geneva, Dr Dybul, a former US global Aids coordinator, said, "We are going to move aggressively to get money out of the door. We will be working to increase the resources of the Fund and its contributions. We will be very aggressive."

"We have the scientific knowledge to completely control these diseases, and we want to have the resources," Dr Dybul added, although he did not set time frames, nor financial goals.

Since its founding in 2002, the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria has approved $22.9 billion in funding for more than 1 000 programmes in 151 countries. Its programs have helped treat 3.6 million people with Aids, 9.3 million with anti-TB treatments and delivered 270 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets to prevent malaria, it said.

Dr Dybul joins the Global Fund after a turbulent year for the public-private organisation.

Not smooth sailng

Set up a decade ago to combat the three epidemics, it was forced to halt new program funding in face of a revenue shortfall after the start of the global financial crisis. The Global Fund also faced criticism over misuse of funds, prompting its head, Michel Kazatchkine of France, to step down in January.

Its chief auditor, John Parson, was fired after the board deemed his performance "unsatisfactory."

Dr Dybul, an Aids clinician with a specialty in immunology who held leading posts under former US President George W Bush at the President's Emergency Program for Aids Relief and as an ambassador for Aids, brushed aside any concern about the recent upheavals at the Fund.

"It is on a very strong forward trajectory," he said. "It is in a very strong position and has a very strong emphasis on value for money and focus on the three killer diseases."

He said the recent challenges demonstrate that the Fund is a "learning institution that reflects, reviews and reacts."

The Fund's board also on Thursday approved a new funding model, starting in 2013, that is designed to be simpler, more flexible and have greater impact in conquering the diseases.

The new system relies upon closer discussions with the recipient countries, along with other donor groups and experts, over the design of their disease-fighting programmes, it said.

Funding also will focus on addressing the needs of the poorest countries with the highest number of infections, it said. Additionally, grant cycles will be flexible instead of falling in set time periods, so that they can be coordinated better with a country's budgetary cycle, it said.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said in a news release that the first priority for the new executive director "should be making sure funding for new proposals gets out the door to accelerate much-needed treatment of HIV and drug-resistant tuberculosis, and raising the necessary funds to do so."

Dr Dybul said he will seek to build strong partnerships with countries in the design of comprehensive programmes to control the epidemics, and work with other organisations in obtaining financing.

(Reuters Health, November 2012)

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