Joep Lange, a prominent HIV researcher and former president of the International AIDS Society, was one of the victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
A professor of medicine and head of the department of global health at the University of Amsterdam, Lange had been involved in HIV treatment and research since 1983, just as the virus was emerging as a global health threat.
He was one of the key researchers behind several pivotal antiretroviral therapy trials, including projects involving the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of the virus, according to the Amsterdam Institute of Global Health and Development.
Lange was on his way to AIDS 2014, a global conference that will take place in Melbourne, Australia from July 20 to 25, at the time of death.
He was traveling with his wife, who has also died in the crash.
“Joep was a visionary amongst HIV researchers,” American HIV researcher Dr. Rick Elion told Vox. “He was acutely aware of the multiple dimensions of HIV spanning science to society and had a heart of gold. This is a huge loss for the field.”
“Joep was absolutely committed to the development of affordable HIV treatments, particularly combination therapies, for use in resource-poor countries,” David Cooper, a friend and fellow researcher told the Australian academic news website The Conversation.
“Another outstanding area of [Lange’s] contribution has been his pioneering role in exploring affordable and simple antiretroviral drug regimens for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in resource-poor settings,” Cooper said.
Other researchers and activists have died en route to the AIDS conference, though the death toll has not yet been confirmed.
Australian newspapers are reporting that as many as 108 conference participants may have been on the plane.
The International AIDS Society issued a statement on the losses:
The IAS today expresses its sincere sadness at receiving news that a number of colleagues and friends en route to attend the 20th International AIDS Conference taking place in Melbourne, Australia, were on board the Malaysian Airlines MH17 flight that has crashed over Ukraine earlier today.
At this incredibly sad and sensitive time the IAS stands with our international family and sends condolences to the loved ones of those who have been lost to this tragedy.
We also at LASS, recognise this incredible loss of some some of the worlds finest scientific HIV activists and send our sympathies and heartfelt sorrow to the families of those who died yesterday on flight MH17.