Saturday, July 19, 2014

Researcher on downed plane 'special friend, special man'

In this October 2008 photo provided by AMC Amsterdam on 
Friday, July 18, 2014, former president of the International AIDS
 Society Joep Lange is seen. A large number of world-renowned
 AIDS researchers and activists heading to an international AIDS
 conference in Australia were on board a Malaysian jetliner that 
was shot down over Ukraine, officials said Friday, as news of their 
deaths sparked an outpouring of grief across the global scientific
 community. Among them was Joep Lange, a well-known researcher
 from the Netherlands (AP Photo/Peter Lowie/AMC)

Researcher on downed plane 'special friend, special man'
Posted 11:59 a.m. yesterday
Updated 11:02 p.m. yesterday

Researcher on downed plane worked with Duke institute

DURHAM, N.C. — The director of Duke University's Global Health Institute remembered a colleague Friday as "a special friend and a special man."

Michael H. Merson is a professor at Duke and was working closely with Joep Lange, one of the travelers on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Lange, the former president of the International AIDS Society and a well-known researcher from the Netherlands died Thursday when that flight was shot down over Ukraine.

The men met in 1992 and worked together at the World Health Organization where they collaborated on efforts to treat AIDS, especially in poorer countries.

"He found ways to bring the price of drugs down, and he found ways to convince decision makers this was a priority," Merson said of Lange, "all of it on top of being a top scientist."

“We grieve Joep Lange’s death and those of the other AIDS activists and scientists who have tragically died traveling to the 2014 International AIDS Conference in Melbourne.”

Chris Beyrer, president-elect of the International AIDS Society, said "the HIV/AIDS movement has truly lost a giant."

Many of the almost 300 people on board the doomed airliner were heading from Amsterdam to Melbourne, Australia, for the AIDS conference, which begins Sunday.

American intelligence authorities believe a surface-to-air missile brought down the aircraft, but it was not yet clear who fired it.

In a speech Friday, President Barack Obama noted the loss to the world scientific community.

"These were men and women who dedicated their own lives to saving the lives of others," he said. "They were taken from us in a senseless act of violence."

Merson's personal relationship with a victim defines his experience of the tragedy.

"When you have one that touches you, you realize everyone of these involves human beings," he said.

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