Head of embattled UNAIDS to leave post immediately

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GENEVA (AP) — The United Nations' AIDS agency said Wednesday its executive director is leaving the post immediately, following allegations he mishandled sexual assault claims at the agency that is tasked with helping end the HIV epidemic.

UNAIDS said Michel Sidibe will become health minister in his native Mali "with immediate effect." He will be replaced by his Swedish deputy, Gunilla Carlsson, on a temporary basis.

The agency has been struggling to keep focus on its mandate to help end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 amid allegations of sexual assault and other wrongdoing that have beset its Geneva headquarters.

Last month, The Associated Press reported that UNAIDS remains embroiled in misconduct investigations involving a whistleblower, Martina Brostrom, who went public last year with claims she was sexually assaulted by a top deputy of Sidibe, Dr. Luiz Loures.

Confidential documents obtained by the AP show the agency is grappling with previously unreported allegations that Brostrom and her former supervisor may have taken part in "fraudulent practices and misuse of travel funds."

The U.S. government — UNAIDS' top donor — later expressed concern about allegations of misused funds at the agency.

Sidibe had been set to leave the post in June, six months before the scheduled end to his term. He announced that early exit after an internal investigation made public last year found "defective leadership" at UNAIDS. He has led the agency since 2009.

After a World Health Organization investigation cleared Loures of any wrongdoing, Brostrom went public with her case on international TV and alleged Sidibe had mishandled her claims of sexual assault.

Loures has denied the allegations.

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