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Joep Lange

Aids researcher

Aids researcher

Born: September 25, 1954 Died: July 17, 2014

JOEP Lange, who died aged 59 on the Malaysian jetliner shot down over Ukraine, was a prominent Aids researcher and a former president of the International Aids Society. He was executive scientific director of the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development and had been flying from the city to an international Aids conference in Melbourne.

He developed his interest in Aids while working as a young doctor at the Academic Medical Centre Hospital, Amsterdam, in the early 1980s during the early days of the epidemic. He made many major contributions to the understanding and treatment of Aids, including the development of anti­retroviral therapy; he also promoted affordable health care in Africa and greater availability of antiretroviral drugs at cheaper prices.

He was born in the Dutch town of Nieuwenhagen and studied medicine at Amsterdam University, gaining his MD in 1981. By this point, Aids was spreading rapidly among gay men and Lange led pioneering research into the risk of a carrier of HIV developing full-blown Aids.

From the early 1990s, he led clinical trials on HIV treatment and early tests on the drug Retrovir, an antiretroviral that was one of the earliest breakthroughs in the treatment of Aids. Lange conducted a pilot study of 18 Dutch men who were HIV positive and found that in most of them, their antibody count was reduced by the treatment.

In the years that followed, Lange also became an activist on Aids. He was president of the International Aids Society between 2002 and 2004 and was chief of clinical research and drug development at the World Health Organisation's global programme on Aids from 1992 to 1995. In 2001, he also founded PharmAccess, which promotes affordable health care in Africa, and promoted online training for HIV professionals.

In a statement, the Academic Medical Centre Hospital in Amsterdam said Lange was a man who knew no barriers. "He was a great inspiration for everybody who wanted to do something about the Aids tragedy in Africa and Asia."

Nobel laureate Dr Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, co-discoverer of the Aids virus and president of the Inter­national Aids Society, also paid tribute to Lange. "Joep was a wonderful person - a great professional," she said. "But more than that, a wonderful human being."

She said Lange had been working on HIV since the earliest years of the epidemic, participating in clinical trials and research across the world. He had dedicated his life, she said, to the benefit of mankind.

Sharon Lewin, co-chairwoman of the conference, called Lange a true renaissance man, who also had a keen interest in arts and literature. "He was passionate about his job and passionate about global health and improving people's lives in low-income countries," she said.

Lange is survived by his son and four daughters. His partner Jacqueline van Tongeren was also killed on the plane.

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