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Leading AIDS researcher killed in Malaysia plane crash

Dr. Joep Lange, a leading AIDS researcher, is presumed dead in the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was apparently shot down over Ukraine, according to a statement issued Friday by the University of Amsterdam, where he was a professor of medicine.

He was among “a number” of AIDS researchers, health officials and activists thought to have been aboard the flight, the International AIDS Society said Friday. They were en route to the International AIDS Conference, scheduled to begin Sunday in Melbourne, Australia. He was accompanied by his longtime companion, Jacqueline van Tongeren.

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The World Health Organization also confirmed Friday that Glenn Thomas, a communications officer, was aboard the plane and is presumed dead.

Peter Lowie/Associated Press

Among the passengers was former president of the International AIDS Society Joep Lange.

Lange, a former president of the society and the executive scientific director of the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development, was a pioneer from the early years of the AIDS crisis and had played a key role in making HIV treatments available to people in the developing world. He began researching the epidemic in 1983.

Even before the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as well as the Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief were created, Lange was a prominent advocate for affordable drugs for AIDS patients in poor countries.

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According to his biography on the institute’s website, he had been “the architect and principal investigator of several pivotal trials on antiretroviral therapy and on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in both the developed and developing world.”

He was eulogized Thursday night at a dinner for AIDS researchers in Melbourne who had arrived early for preconference meetings of the International AIDS Society.

Dr. David Margolis, an AIDS researcher at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill who attended the dinner, said speakers recalled that Lange said, “If we can get a cold can of Coke to any part of Africa, we can certainly deliver AIDS treatment.”

Lange and Dr. David Cooper, an Australian AIDS researcher, along with Thai doctors, founded a research program in Thailand known as HIV-NAT, with the last three letters standing for Netherlands, Australia, Thailand.

“It was one of the first models of international collaboration on clinical research in a developing country,” said Dr. H. Clifford Lane, the deputy director for clinical research at the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

It served as a model for many later collaborations with African medical schools, he said.

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