The UN-backed Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria has picked the former head of the US agency funding developing world Aids programmes as its new chief.
The appointment of Mark Dybul, former head of Pepfar – launched by former President George W. Bush – is likely to spark some opposition even as it cements a link to the US, one of the fund’s largest contributors, at a time when the economic slowdown has squeezed development assistance.
Thursday’s decision brings to an end months of uncertainty following the decision at the start of this year to remove Michel Kazatchkine of France as executive director of the Global Fund, which disbursed more than $2.6bn in 2011.
Mr Dybul divided opinion in his previous job, with some activists arguing that Pepfar’s HIV prevention programmes reflected too far the US religious right’s calls for a focus on abstinence and behavioural change instead of condom distribution. Others say he was slow to purchase cheap, non-US produced, generic antiretroviral medicines.
But he was popular in many African countries, where most Pepfar money was spent, and earned respect both as a research scientist and doctor and as manager of an organisation operating against a backdrop of fierce US policy debates on HIV.
Mr Dybul’s appointment from a shortlist of four was adopted by the fund’s 26-strong board – composed of donor and recipient countries, non governmental organisations and business representatives – with just two abstentions, including France.
Simon Bland, the British government nominee who chairs the board, said: “This was pretty passport-blind, not about nations fighting for candidates. It came down to the individuals.”
Mr Dybul said: “The most important thing is to look forward, not to the past. The US funded more condoms than all other sources and 90 per cent of all antiretrovirals are generics.”
“At this unique moment when we have scientific advances, we will redouble our efforts to raise resources, have incredible focus on impact and high value for money.”
The fund board also on Thursday approved a new approach to funding designed to speed up approvals, support national programmes and concentrate on higher quality projects in countries with the greatest disease burden and least ability to pay.
It also dismissed John Parsons, its inspector general. Some directors believed Mr Parsons had been too outspoken in conducting public audits that sparked criticism of relatively small amounts of mismanagement and corruption.