Leading AIDS researcher aboard downed flight MH17

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On-board the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 shot down Thursday afternoon was leading AIDS researcher, and head of the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development and former president of the International AIDS Society, Dr. Joep Lange, who was en route to the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia.

Australia newspaper The Australian is reporting that more than 100 AIDS activists, researchers and health workers were also aboard the flight.

Lange was known for his efforts in bringing HIV therapies to the poor in Africa, and was quoted during an address at an International AIDS Conference in the early 2000s as asking, “Why is it that we are always talking about the problem of drug distribution, when there is virtually no place in Africa where one cannot get a cold beer or a cold Coca-Cola.”

In 1996, Lange co-founded the HIV Netherlands Australia Thailand Research Collaboration, which according to Nature, has since “completed 68 studies and was among the earliest research efforts to establish that antiretroviral drugs that attack HIV can be cheaply and effectively delivered in resource-poor settings.”

A close friend of Lange, David Cooper, who heads up the Kirby Institute for Infection and Immunity in Society, stated that “he [Lange] has single-handedly convinced the pharmaceutical industry that combination chemotherapy was the way to go."

Lange also launched the nonprofit PharmAccess Foundation in 2000. The organization sought to bring antitretroviral drugs to sub-Saharan Africa. Onno Schellekens, managing director of the group, said in a statement regarding Lange and his partner and colleague Jacqueline van Tongeren, who was also on board flight MH17 that “This is a massive loss. We are devastated. Joep's dedication to the treatment of HIV/AIDS and global health in general has been groundbreaking. Jacqueline and Joep's dedication to their work in the field of HIV/AIDS and health in general have saved countless lives.”

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