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A picture taken on July 14, 2003 in Paris, shows Dutchman and leading AIDS researcher Joep Lange during a conference on the matter. The world AIDS community was in mourning on July 18, 2014 with as many as 100 passengers reportedly on a crashed Malaysia Airlines plane heading to Australia for a global conference on the epidemic. / JEAN AYISSI AFP/Getty Images

Joep Lange, a noted researcher and pioneer in the global fight against AIDS, was among the 298 people killed in the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.

Lange, an internist and professor of infectious diseases, at the University of Amsterdam, and his partner Jacqueline van Tongeren, director of communications at the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development, were en route to the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia.

The conference will start Sunday with a tribute to Lange, van Tongeren and at least four others who died while traveling to the biannual gathering of more than 10,000 researchers, activists, politicians and caregivers.

Lange, a past president of the International AIDS Society, which runs the conference, was remembered by friends and colleagues for his "towering presence in the fight against AIDS," as well as for his mentoring, his innovative ideas, his blunt speech and his passion for books and classical music.

Chris Beyrer, president-elect of the AIDS Society, described his long-time friend Lange as "a man who is universally loved and respected in this field." Lange was smart, practical, witty and frank, said Beyrer, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. "But that was coupled with really extraordinary scientific insight."

Lange, who began researching AIDS in 1983, near the beginning of the epidemic, was one of the first to suggest that successful treatment would require a combination of drugs, rather than a single medication, Beyrer said.

The approach transformed AIDS from a death sentence to a chronic illness ‚?? for those who could afford treatment. Lange later went on to advocate for cost reductions, so patients in Africa and other parts of the developing world could access life-saving treatment.

Lange was also known for helping to run a long-term study called the Amsterdam Cohort, following patients from early in the epidemic until today to better understand the course of the disease; and for initiating an international collaboration among researchers in the Netherlands, Australia and Thailand.

"Even though he was able to create these new programs and be very effective, he wasn't the usual type of politician," said Douglas Richman, director of the Center for AIDS Research at the University of California, San Diego, who co-edited the journal Antiviral Therapy with Lange. "He didn't mince words and was known to speak the truth incredibly frankly and acknowledge reality."

Richman said Lange was also the best read person he'd ever met, devouring books of all genres. Lange's colleagues knew he was a father of five grown daughters, but could not remember whether he had one or two sons.

Kevin Robert Frost, CEO of amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, issued a statement Friday describing Lange as "a towering presence in the fight against AIDS‚?¶He inspired legions of AIDS researchers, healthcare workers and activists and was an inspiration to me personally."

Albert Wu, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, put it more succinctly: "We definitely lost one of the heroes."



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: MH17 crash victim recalled as a pioneer in AIDS research

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