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Frenchman to lead
Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and

Frenchman to lead
Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and

Dr. Michel Kazatchkine, France's ambassador for the international battle against the AIDS epidemic, was chosen Thursday to head the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, ending months of uncertainty for the $7 billion organization.

Kazatchkine, a former director of the French National Agency for AIDS research, will succeed Briton Richard Feachem, whose term at the head of the independent fund expires in March and who has recently come under fire over allegations of lavish spending habits.

Global Fund spokesman Jon Liden said Kazatchkine was elected by a two-thirds majority vote of the fund's board comprised of national health officials, U.N. and World Bank representatives, company executives and campaigners. The other candidates under consideration were Dr. David Nabarro, who has been guiding the United Nations' efforts against the deadly bird flu virus, and Ugandan AIDS chief Alex Coutinho.

Kazatchkine, a 60-year-old immunologist who studied at Necker-Enfants-Malades in Paris and the Harvard Medical School in Boston, said he would focus on strengthening partnerships at the global and local levels to ''fight against three deadly diseases that kill 15,000 people a day.''

''I've been described ... as a scientist, as a diplomat, as a public health expert,'' he told journalists on a conference call. ''But my very first quality, somehow, is to be a physician. I have been a physician treating patients with AIDS for over 20 years.''

The Global Fund was an initiative conceived by the world's richest governments at the 2001 Group of Eight economic summit in Genoa, Italy, where they pledged to step up funding to fight HIV/AIDS and other global epidemics.

The fund has spent some $3.3 billion in more than 130 countries since it was created, providing treatment for more than 770,000 people with AIDS and 2 million others with tuberculosis. It has given out more than 18 million bed nets to prevent bites from the mosquitoes that spread malaria.

The Geneva-based body had been trying to find a successor to Feachem for months, but its board could not reach consensus on a single candidate and put the decision off at a conference in Guatemala last November.

The fund also has been on the defensive because of allegations that Feachem spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on limousines, expensive meals, boat cruises and other expenses.

The Boston Globe revealed earlier this week the details of an internal investigation, which suggested Feachem's spending habits created ''potential risks,'' including loss of donor confidence because of ''inadequate internal controls over funds.''

Global Fund officials disputed the accuracy, context and fairness of the inspector-general's report.

''I am not familiar with the inspector-general's report,'' Kazatchkine said. ''Whether that should be made public or not, I cannot really express an opinion here.''

The fund receives its contributions from governments as well as from business corporations and private foundations. The U.S. government provides about a third of all funding and is the largest donor. Last week, the House of Representatives approved a $724 million contribution to the fund.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the biggest private contributor, having pledged a total of $650 million.

Kazatchkine began working with AIDS in 1983 as a young clinical immunologist, when he treated a French couple who had returned from Africa with unexplained immune deficiency, according to a biography posted on the Web site of the French Foreign Ministry.

He started a clinic in Paris two years later that is still in operation, currently treating more than 1,600 people. He has published over 600 research papers and led France's AIDS research institute, the world's second largest with a budget of $65 million, from 1998 to 2005.

Kazatchkine also has experience with AIDS programs in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and South America, according to the ministry, for which he has worked since 2005 as global HIV/AIDS and communicable diseases ambassador. (AP)

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