AIDS community in mourning as leading researcher dies in MH17 crash
Members of the international HIV research community are reeling from the news that many of their own, including world-renowned AIDS researcher Joep Lange, perished when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down Thursday over eastern Ukraine.
The victims were on their way to the International AIDS Conference that begins this weekend in Melbourne, Australia, a trip halfway around the world that necessitated a change of planes in Kuala Lumpur.
The identities of the victims have not been officially confirmed by the airlines, but Lange’s office in Amsterdam confirmed in a statement that he died in the crash, along with his partner Jacqueline.
Lange, a Dutch citizen, had been a pioneer in the field since the early days of the AIDS epidemic and had worked tirelessly, his friends and colleagues said, to improve access to life-saving drugs in impoverished corners of the globe.
He was a former president of the International AIDS Society (2002–04). In 2001, he founded the PharmAccess Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation based in Amsterdam which aims to improve access to HIV/AIDS therapy in developing countries and served as Chairman until his death.
He was also the scientific director of HIV[e]Ducation, an online learning system for medical doctors, nurses and counsellors working with HIV-positive people and was a founding editor of the academic journal, Antiviral Therapy.
The UNSW Kirby Institute issued a statement of condolences, adding Lange was a close colleague and friend of institute director Professor David A Cooper.
“Joep had an absolute commitment to HIV treatment and care in Asia and Africa,” Cooper said.
“The joy in collaborating with Joep was that he would always bring a fresh view, a unique take on things, and he never accepted that something was impossible to achieve. Our joint work in Bangkok, the HIVNAT centre, will stand as his legacy.”
Twitter lit up with tributes to Lange, @danielstefanski posting: "If it's true that #JoepLange was on board, he was a generous and inspiring leader. A humanitarian. Cut down by those who devalue life."
@DrMikePNYC tweeted: "#MH17 already a tragedy, now research world loses #joeplange, a rare gift to science and unknowing mentor in many ways to many, including me."
IMAGE: Joep Lange.