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San Francisco Chronicle

The Global Fund's top leader stepping down:


Richard Feachem, the British-born UCSF professor who has run the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria almost since its inception in 2002, is stepping down as executive director when his latest term ends in July.

He announced his decision in a written statement issued Friday from the Global Fund headquarters in Geneva.

Feachem said he was looking forward to returning to the Bay Area, where he was director of the Institute for Global Health, run jointly by UCSF and UC Berkeley, where he still holds professorships. "Home for us is San Francisco, and we have family and friends there with whom we would like to spend more time," he wrote.

In the nearly four years that Feachem ran the nonprofit, United Nations-inspired organization, Global Fund raised billions of dollars in pledges for international assistance to fight the three major scourges of the developing world, but ultimately fell far short of the expectations of its most ardent advocates.

During his tenure, the Global Fund committed $4.9 billion to disease-fighting programs in 131 countries, amassing pledges from wealthier countries of more than $8.5 billion.

However, actual spending on AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria programs in that time has totaled just $2 billion -- a long way from the goal envisioned by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan of a program that would devote at least $7 billion to $10 billion a year to fight the diseases.

"The Global Fund has never come close to the cruising altitude originally envisioned," said Northeastern University law professor Brook Baker, a policy analyst for the Health Gap Coalition.

Baker faults Feachem for placating the major donors such as the United States, which AIDS advocates criticize for global stinginess.

"From the beginning, he said the U.S. contribution was sufficient, but all the while the U.S. was undercutting the Global Fund," said Baker.

The United States has been the largest single contributor to the Global Fund, but the Bush administration has placed the lion's share of its overseas AIDS spending into the president's own program emphasizing direct assistance to hard-hit countries.

U.S. Global AIDS coordinator Randall Tobias, who said two years ago that the Global Fund needed to slow down, praised Feachem on Friday as a strong and effective advocate.

Feachem has spent much of his time trying to coax wealthy countries to increase their contributions to the organization. This year, he began a program to encourage private corporations to raise large sums as well.

Pledges to the Global Fund are $1 billion short of its goal for 2006; for next year international help will have to increase by $2.6 billion to meet Feachem's targets.

Still, Feachem's four years mark an extraordinary acceleration of international spending for diseases in poor countries. Global Fund programs have put 384,000 people on AIDS drugs -- most them low-cost generics that Feachem embraced despite pressure to use discounted brand-name medications from major pharmaceuticals makers.

The program has distributed 7.7 million insecticide-treated bed nets to combat malaria, and provided antibiotic therapy for 1 million tuberculosis patients.

Although Feachem's two-year contract with the Global Fund expires in July, he pledged to stay on with the organization for as long as requested to provide enough time to choose a successor.


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Information in this article was accurate in March 7, 2006. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.