Published On: Sun, Jul 20th, 2014

NIAID Director, Dr. Anthony Fauci discusses tragic loss of Dr. Joep Lange

This past Thursday, 298 passengers and crew on Malaysian Airline flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur lost their lives when a missile tragically took the plane down near the Ukraine-Russia border. Six of the individuals were on route to the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia.

Dr. Anthony Fauci Image/Video Screen Shot

Dr. Anthony Fauci
Image/Video Screen Shot

The six were Pim de Kuijer, lobbyist Aids Fonds/STOP AIDS NOW!, Joep Lange, co-director of the HIV Netherlands Australia Research Collaboration (HIV-NAT), Lucie van Mens, Director of Support at The Female Health Company, Martine de Schutter, Program Manager Aids Fonds/STOP AIDS NOW!, Glenn Thomas, World Health Organization and Jacqueline van Tongeren, Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development.

On Sunday morning’s Meet the Press, host David Gregory spoke with National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) director, Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., who was in Melbourne, about the loss of friend and colleague,  Joep Lange, MD, PhD.

Gregory asked Fauci to give some insight into the aching personal loss that so many people are feeling. Fauci responded, “Well, it’s really permeating the meeting, David. I just came out of the opening ceremony. And there’s a feeling of really great sadness and loss, despite the fact that there are many people in H.I.V. A.I.D.S. research and advocacy. It’s a really rather close-knit community because we focus on one particular disease, one particular virus.

“And Joep was very well known, an extraordinary personality. I’ve known him and been working with him for now close to 30 years. He’s really had a major impact, you know, among the Europeans, and even worldwide. He has been a very strong advocate for getting treatment, particularly for those people who are in most need. In fact, he’s well known for saying years and years ago, “If we can get Coca-Cola to the remote parts of Africa and elsewhere, why can’t we get H.I.V. drugs there?” And he was constantly pushing. So he really was an inspirational thought leader. And his loss is really felt very, very severely by all of us here.”

Gregory then asked, “Tony, anybody who knows you, knows you’ve been working for most of your career on trying to combat H.I.V. and A.I.D.S.. Can you put into words as you think about your colleagues, you think about the work at this conference, what has been lost?”

“Well, what has been lost are really extraordinary colleagues, activists who’ve been in it from the very beginning, pushing the envelope. Joep himself, who has been an extraordinary colleague, he’s made contributions clinically and basic research, Dr. Fauci noted.

Dr. Joep Lange Image/Amsterdam Institute for Global      Health and Development (AIGHD)

Dr. Joep Lange Image/Amsterdam Institute for Global
Health and Development (AIGHD)

“But really, one of the most important things that he’s done for the field, he’s been an inspirational thought leader, someone who’s very, very passionate about it, always pushing you to do more. And it’s that kind of positive tension that he led to the field that I’m going to miss personally dealing with him. Because he was constantly pushing me and my colleagues to do more and do better. And it’s that kind of inspiration that all of us are going to miss. It’s really a terribly sad day here in Australia.”

“What is the one area in your work that you focus on with renewed zeal, given the loss of these colleagues?”, Gregory asked the doctor to close the interview. Fauci said, “Well, it’s just to get better treatments and to get treatment for the people who need. Because globally, we have the drugs. Joep himself was one of the people that was involved in the clinical trials to prove that the drug works. The real goal right now is to just get people involved in care, get them on treatment, not only to save their own lives, but to bring their level of virus to the point where it would make it less likely for them to infect other people. That’s what we’re all striving for. And that was the thing that drove Dr. Lange.”



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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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