The loss of friends and colleagues from flight MH 17

AIDS 2014Polly Clayden and Simon Collins, HIV i-Base

Like so many people at the AIDS 2014 conference and beyond we were jolted with sadness when we heard the appalling news of the six delegates who were killed on flight MH 17.

  • Pim de Kuijer, STOP AIDS NOW!
  • Joep Lange, co-director of the HIV Netherlands Australia Research Collaboration (HIV-NAT)
  • Lucie van Mens, Director, AIDS Action Europe
  • Maria Adriana de Schutter, AIDS Action Europe
  • Glenn Thomas, World Health Organisation
  • Jacqueline van Tongeren, Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development

Our thoughts are with their friends, families and colleagues.

Of these people, we were lucky enough to have worked with Joep Lange, an inspiring doctor from the Netherlands, who had supported the community from the early days. He attended a meeting we organised on pharmacokinetics and drug concentrations over 15 years ago and, with David Back and colleagues from Liverpool, encouraged us to learn about this aspect of research and its implications.

Joep was driven by a political response to medicine as an issue of human rights. When global treatment access was making first tentative advances, he was right to challenge the political and economic structures that could get Coca-Cola to every remote village in Africa, and to say this should be just as possible for ARVs. In San Francisco, he noted US inequity by remarking that more people were sleeping on the streets of the host city than he had seen in a recent trip to India. Ever controversial, at a recent meeting on resistance in low-income countries he suggested that funding for the START study should perhaps be spent on a head-to-head comparison of 3TC vs FTC. These ideas and discussions were from a drive to find workable and practical ways to change the world.

An online video on the IAS tribute page – he was president from 2002-2004 – shows many other examples, including supporting drug users when the conference was in Thailand, and negotiating US support after demonstrations in Barcelona. A strong supporter of community activism, he was also happy to challenge community campaigns if he thought they missed the main point – including for an early PrEP campaign that held back research.

One of the many projects developed by Joep, and particularly that of his partner Jacqueline van Tongeren, was the International Workshop on HIV Treatment, Pathogenesis and Prevention Research in Resource-Poor Settings (INTEREST) Workshop. Cate Hankins, Deputy Director of AIGHD – the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development, where they all worked – recently spoke movingly of their lives. At the 2014 INTEREST workshop earlier this year – sitting with two colleagues whose PhDs he had supervised Polly Clayden remarked: “It might be quicker to tell me whose PhD Joep hadn’t supervised.”

With many much-deserved tributes that have marked Joep Lange’s death one thing that stands out is the sheer volume of work that he undertook.

For this and many, many reasons, he will be hugely missed.

The following links are just a few of the many tributes.

IAS. In remembrance: Professor Joep Lange.

Hankins C. Remarks on the lives of Jacqueline van Tongeren and Joep Lange. AIGHD AMC Information Session, AMC Amsterdam, 24 July, 2014. Internationale AIDS Conferentie, EYE Amsterdam, 25 July, 2014.

Mascolini Mark. HIV world loses Joep Lange, early outspoken proponent of triple ART. IAS. 18 July 2014.

Piot P. Joep Lange obituary. The Guardian, 21 July 2014.

Maurice J. Joep Lange obituary. The Lancet, Volume 384, Issue 9940, Page 302, 26 July 2014. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)61052-7.

Economist. Joseph Marie Albert Lange, AIDS researcher, died on July 17th, aged 59.

Links to other websites are current at date of posting but not maintained.