AIDS researchers killed in Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 Crash

AIDS researchers killed in Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 Crash

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Within hours of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 Thursday, Emory's Rollins School of Public Health Dean Jim Curran started getting email. The messages alerted him his colleague of almost 40 years, Dr. Joep Lange of Amsterdam, was onboard the doomed jet, along with as many as a hundred other AIDS researchers and public health workers.

In the tightly knit AIDS research community, Curran says researchers are known for working together. He first met Dr. Lange back in the early 1980s. Lange came to Atlanta for the first international AIDS conference. Dr. Curran says this is a huge collective loss – because each of the researchers killed – likely worked with a hundred other researchers across the field. He says, “It's not just another 300 people. But, more than a third of them are involved in the fight against AIDS and are coming together to do that, it makes you realize that every one of these crashes there are lots of stories like this."

This story is a major loss for the international AIDS community gathering in in Melbourne, Australia, for the

20th International AIDS Conference. That’s where Dr. Lange and the others were headed. Six or seven coworkers from the Center for Aids Research at Emory were also traveling to the conference, but Emory has confirmed they were not on the downed flight. Dr. Curran says, “To watch them work together over years, and respect each other, across countries, across disciplines.

Then, to see them perish together senselessly, is what really hurts.”

On its website, the PharmAccess Foundation confirmed Friday Dr. Lange, the non-profit’s founder and a former president of the International AIDS Society, and his partner - Dr. Jacqueline van Tongeren were on the downed flight.

As the Tweets poured in, paying tribute to Dr. Lange, Dr. Curran says he'll remember the bright Dutchman, who stepped up to help lead the fight against AIDS in the developing world. Curran says Lange was a leader, who said, “My job is bigger than what's happening in the Netherlands, my job is bigger than just working in the laboratory. My job is to help and try to solve this problem throughout the world."

And Dr. Curran believes the loss of the researchers will be felt on many levels. Not just for the work they achieved, but all the work they might've done, had they lived. He says, “Knowing Dr. Lange, and just knowing the collective loss to the community, it’s really a tragedy.

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