DURHAM: Duke researcher remembers colleague killed in Ukraine - WNCN: News, Weather

AIDS researcher killed on Malaysian flight remembered by Duke colleague

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The International AIDS Society, and AIDS and HIV researchers around the world are mourning the loss of several top minds in the field in the Malaysian Airline flight that crashed in Ukraine.

One of those researchers was Joep Lange, the former IAS president and one of the most prominent researchers in the race for a cure to HIV and AIDS. Lange's colleague, Michael Merson, works in Durham and described Lange as a strong advocate for global health.

"He was one of our true leaders and he inspired so many others," said Merson, the director of Duke Global Health Institute. "He's been in the field for close to 25 years and touched so many people."

Merson said at first he didn't know why Lange would have been on that flight until he remembered the International AIDS Conference.

"I'm sure he was going there to talk about his passion, which was making AIDS drugs available to people around the world."

Lange has made many contributions to advancing AIDS research over the past several decades. Merson said his death is a big loss for the AIDS research community, but researchers plan to continue the projects that he left behind.

"He was most recently here with eight of his colleagues because we are in the process of planning a new initiative on innovation and technology in a number of places in the world," he said. "I hope we will go forward with that but we will miss him. It's been a long fight with AIDS. It's been a long struggle to get people treated to prevent the millions of deaths that have occurred. And it's because of people like Joep that we've made so much progress."

According to the United Nations, 35 million people live with HIV. The numbers of deaths and new infections have fallen by more than a third in a decade.

Copyright 2014 WNCN. All rights reserved.

Shumuriel Ratliff

Shumuriel, a North Carolina native, is thrilled to be back in the Tar Heel state as a general assignment reporter for WNCN.

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