Determined to Make Change: A Man I Admired

In 1984, I was invited to a European conference to present our experience with an aspect of AIDS that had never been seen before. The moderator of this meeting session was Dr. Joep Lange, University of Amsterdam, who became a role model for early intervention and a lifelong friend. 

At the end of my talk, he said, “Professor Valenti, that was a very elegant presentation.” I smiled politely, but I was in awe of him. 

  Dr. Joep Lange (Photo by Liz Highleyman)

Dr. Joep Lange (Photo by Liz Highleyman)

His greatest achievement was getting HIV drugs to Africa. At one international conference, he stated boldly that, “If we can bring a bottle of Coke to every corner of Africa, we should be able to deliver antiretroviral drugs.” And he did bring drugs to Africa - 20 million people in Africa are on HIV treatment today.

  According to www.avert.org there are over 25 million people living with AIDS in Africa. (Photo from www.wikipedia.com)

According to www.avert.org there are over 25 million people living with AIDS in Africa. (Photo from www.wikipedia.com)

Often called a medical diplomat, he died at the age of 59 in the crash of a Malaysia Airlines flight on his way to the 2014 International AIDS Conference. The work continues without him, but a huge void remains without his passion, vision, his brain, and his humanity.