HAI mourns the loss of AIDS researcher and advocate Dr. Joep Lange. He was a passenger on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was shot down over the Ukraine on July 17th. Lange was on his way to Melbourne to attend the 20th International AIDS Conference.
“He was a great guy,” said Dr. Max Essex, Chair of the Harvard AIDS Initiative (HAI). “His loss is devastating. He had a unique combination of scientific expertise, passion, and a sense of how to achieve results.”
Essex got to know Lange in 1992. HAI was organizing the international AIDS meeting that year. It was slated to be in Boston. When the U.S. government passed regulations restricting people with HIV from entering the country, the meeting was quickly moved to Amsterdam in protest. Lange, who at the time was Head of the Netherlands National AIDS Therapy Evaluation Center, became a key organizer.
“We all wanted to make that conference a showcase for non-discrimination and health and human rights,” said Dr. Richard Marlink, Executive Director of HAI.
In 2001, Lange founded the PharmAccess Foundation to improve access to HIV/AIDS therapy in developing countries. “Drugs for treatment was his cause and he pushed hard for access to drugs for Africa,” said Essex. Lange became President of the International AIDS Society from 2002–2004.
“We’ve lost a rational and knowledgeable voice that everyone trusted, whether they agreed with him or not,” said Marlink. “He was open and clear about where he thought the AIDS effort should be headed, but he listened to those who disagreed. We lost someone who was honest and great leader.”