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Global Fund chief quits after funding cuts

GENEVA (Reuters) - The head of the Global Fund, the largest backer of the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, will step down in March after a misuse of funds led it to cut back on new grants to battle the diseases.

Michel Kazatchkine has been the Global Fund's executive director for five years, half its life, but was sidelined in November after the organization said it would be forced to cut grants and was bringing in a new manager.

The Fund said it had appointed Gabriel Jaramillo, a Brazilian former banker, as general manager.

The public-private Global Fund, based in Geneva, accounts for around a quarter of international financing to fight HIV and AIDS, as well as the majority of funds to fight TB and malaria.

The Fund, which raises money from donors every three years, commissioned a review of its procedures in March after reporting "grave misuse of funds" in four recipient nations. This prompted donors such as Germany and Sweden to freeze their donations.

The Fund was forced to cut back and said it would make no new grants or funding until 2014. Until then, any low- and middle-income countries who have Global Fund grants that expire can apply for emergency maintenance funding to tide them over.

Jaramillo was a member of the panel that investigated the Fund's fiduciary controls and oversight last year and recommended improvements to the way donors' money is managed.

"My priorities at the Global Fund are to achieve maximum efficiency, accountability and concrete results that save lives," Jaramillo said in a statement.

"In essence, we will start with a reorganization that emphasizes simplicity, discipline and rigor, with grant-management as the core activity of the institution."

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which treats 123,000 people with HIV/AIDS in 26 countries, said it had been calling for Kazatchkine to go since September.

"The appointment of new leadership, along with Kazatchkines departure, is a step in the right direction in restoring confidence in the Global Funds ability to fight the epidemics it was created to address," Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said in a statement.

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