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AIDS Researcher Killed in Malaysia Airlines Crash

Delegates observe a minute's silence as a tribute to colleagues killed in the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, at the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, July 20, 2014.
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Several medical researchers were on the Malaysia Airlines plane shot down July 17 in eastern Ukraine. The researchers were traveling to a yearly international conference on AIDS. Among those killed was Dr. Joep Lange, a top AIDS researcher.

AIDS researcher Joep Lange
AIDS researcher Joep Lange

Dr. Lange had been an HIV/AIDS researcher for 30 years. He helped to change worldwide opinions about who should receive the drugs that treat HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. He had planned to join more than 12,000 people at the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia. The conference opened July 20th.

Dr. Clifford Lane works at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the United States National Institutes of Health. He says Dr. Lange was one of the first medical experts to understand the importance of doing HIV research in developing countries. Dr. Lane says many people did not believe such research was valuable.

He says Dr. Lange led the effort to provide drugs to poor people with HIV in developing countries. Before the efforts of Dr. Lange and others, the drugs had only been given to people in the developed world. Dr. Lane says Dr. Lange believed everyone with HIV should have access to drugs that keep them from developing AIDS.

The United Nations AIDS organization says 39 million people worldwide have died from the disease. Researchers still have not found a cure for AIDS since the virus was first recognized 30 years ago.

Dr. Lange was the president of the International AIDS Society from 2002 to 2004. He helped create the PharmAccess Foundation. The non-profit organization works to provide help to people with HIV and AIDS in developing countries.

The International AIDS conference honored Dr. Lange and other delegates killed on the Malaysia Airlines flight. The gathering held a worldwide minute of remembrance.

Francoise Barre-Sinoussi is the current president of the International AIDS Society. He spoke to reporters in Melbourne Saturday. Mr. Barre-Sinoussi said that Dr. Lange spent his life working to end AIDS. He said Dr. Lange would want the conference to go forward.

The theme of this year’s AIDS conference is “stepping up the pace” or, speeding, in the fight against AIDS.

I’m Caty Weaver.

This story was written from reports by VOA reporters Carol Pearson and Anita Powell.