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A picture taken on July 14, 2003 in Paris, shows leading AIDS researcher Joep Lange during a conference on the matter. / Jean Ayissi, AFP/Getty Images

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - In the 1990s, Dr. William Valenti of Rochester worked with other AIDS researchers to try to figure out why a particular drug was causing body changes in patients.

Valenti remembered that project Friday as he recalled one of his colleagues - Dr. Joep Lange, killed in the destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

"This is a very significant loss," Valenti said. "The legacy carries on, but it's not like having the person there."

Lange was among 298 people killed Thursday when the plane was shot out of the sky over eastern Ukraine. He was a former president of the International AIDS Society and was among approximately 100 AIDS researchers and activists en route to Australia for the 20th International AIDS Conference.

Lange was head of the Department of Global Health, at the Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Executive Scientific Director of the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development in the Netherlands.

Valenti called Lange a "tour de force," using a phrase that Lange would use when he commented on presentations.

Valenti described Lange as a gentleman. "He was ever polite and mentoring," he said.

Valenti said he and Lange would see each other yearly, usually at a major conference. They served on work groups or committees.

"I remember watching him moderate a session. At the end of the presentation, he always complemented the speaker. He said at that presentation, 'That was a very elegant presentation.'

"In the U.S., that's not part of the way we describe things," Valenti said. "I've used that since then if I should be moderating. It gets people's attention."

Valenti said that in the 1980s, Lange found that if pregnant women were taking anti-HIV drugs, they would not transmit the virus to the baby. "That made a huge impact on preventing illness," he said.

Valenti has been involved in HIV/AIDS research since the 1980s. Early in the epidemic, he was interested in why patients taking a drug called a protease inhibitor were seeing a shift in their body fat. So was Lange.

"The company making the drug put us together," said Valenti, who in 1989 co-founded Community Health Network in Rochester, which now is Trillium Health.

Valenti had attended the international AIDS conference in the past but was not planning to attend this year's event.

He said he and Lange kept in touch, and he followed Lange's work in global health.

"I've also benefited from his insights," said Valenti. "His was an important mind with a lot of experience. ? This is someone who was involved in the very early days, over 30 years, and had the insight that it takes to learn from the past and get to the next steps. These are huge shoes to fill."



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Researcher remembers colleague killed in Ukraine crash

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