Malaysia Airlines Disaster Could Be Setback for AIDS Research

Jul 21, 2014

By Rachael Rettner and Bahar Gholipour


The HIV/AIDS research community expressed sadness today over the loss of prominent AIDS researchers and activists who were aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, saying that the tragedy could also be a setback for research in the field.

The flight, which was carrying nearly 300 passengers from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was brought down yesterday (July 17) by a surface-to-air missile while flying over an area of conflict between Ukraine and Russia, according to U.S. government officials. At least several of the passengers on the flight were believed to be headed to the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia.

So far, conference organizers say they have confirmed that seven AIDS researchers and activists were among the victims, according to The Washington Post. Among the victims was Dr. Joep Lange, from the Department of Global Health at the University of Amsterdam, whose colleagues call him a pioneer in the field.

“The loss of any one of these HIV/AIDS scholars and researchers is tragic; if a number of them perished, the rate of discovery about HIV may slow while these research programs are reconstituted,” said Dr. David Rosenthal, medical director of the Center for Young Adult, Adolescent and Pediatric HIV at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in New York.

Dr. David Ho, director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York, said the passing of the HIV researchers “is not only tragic but also devastating to the field, for they are valued colleagues in the struggle against HIV.” Ho said Lange was a friend for more than 25 years, as well as an important leader and a tireless advocate for people afflicted by the AIDS pandemic.

Lange was among the key researchers behind several clinical trials that established the efficacy of antiviral treatment for people with HIV/AIDS. He also studied the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of the virus, and was an early advocate of bringing HIV medications to the developing world.

In the 1990s, when researchers were looking into antiretroviral drugs to curb the virus, Lange was an advocate for the use of combination therapies, in which multiple antiretroviral are used. The cocktail of drugs, which is used today, reduces the risk that the virus will develop drug resistance. He also argued that treatment should be tested in the early course of the disease, rather than in people with advanced HIV.

4 comments on “Malaysia Airlines Disaster Could Be Setback for AIDS Research

  • 1
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    The best of the best of humankind, the people who give hope, purpose and inspire optimism in all of us. These kind, brilliant, hard-working people, who keep this world from sinking into complete barbarism and mediocrity… And they end up getting brutally murdered by these blind, abject worthless thugs, the scum of the earth who, once everything is said and done, live on and prosper.

    Sorry about the rant. This kind of thing just makes me sick… and angry.

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  • While I do not disagree with your statement all, I refuse to exclude the airline from blame. They decided not to fly around the known dangerous area to save on fuel costs. And that makes me just as sick.

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  • 3
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    Yes that’s a valid point and that was my initial reaction as well. But according to the news, they were flying at an altitude that was considered to be above the no-fly zone restriction. Also, it was reported that planes from other airline companies had been flying above Ukraine (Air France, Lufthansa…) and nothing happened to them. So in that regard, how much blame does Malaysian Airlines really deserve?

    In my opinion, it’s much more a case of extremely bad timing.

    What happens when you put sophisticated weapons in the hands of ignoramus Neanderthal boys like those Russian-paid mercenaries? They perceive them as shiny new toys and like any newly acquired toy, they’re eager to try it… at the first hint of an opportunity.

    So in retrospect, even though MH17 should definitely have flown around Ukraine, so should all the airliners who didn’t do so before this one. Thus, pinpointing blame on them is not quite fair in my opinion. In that regard, all the airlines were reckless and they all played Russian Roulette (excuse the pun). MH17 just had the misfortune of catching the one bullet in the cylinder.

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  • decrease transmission

    I read an encouraging news item today. A local (u.s.) health care clinic now offers/prescribes Truvada for those who wish to take it. Trials and follow-ups reportedly quell concerns, such as does it encourage sex (think birth control).

    A few downsides include expense (find generic!), and moral issues of some prescribers (again,think birth control).

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