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 / Updated  / Source: Reuters

MELBOURNE - Influential AIDS expert Joep Lange was among the 298 passengers on the jet that was shot down over Ukraine, a colleague confirmed Friday. Lange spent more than 30 years researching and fighting HIV and AIDS and was known for advocating cheap access to treatments in poor countries.

"The joy in collaborating with Joep was that he would always bring a fresh view, a unique take on things, and he never accepted that something was impossible to achieve," said David Cooper, a professor at the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales, who worked closely with Lange on an HIV research project in Bangkok. Dozens of passengers on doomed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 were on their way to the 20th International AIDS Conference, which is due to begin Sunday in Melbourne, Australia. Former President Bill Clinton is among its keynote speakers. A professor of medicine at the Academic Medical Center at the University of Amsterdam, Lange is a former president of the International AIDS Society (IAS). Chris Beyrer, president elect of the IAS, told reporters that Lange's death meant "the HIV/AIDS movement has truly lost a giant." Lange pioneered development of affordable combination therapies to treat HIV and simple antiretroviral drug treatments to prevent transmission of HIV from mothers to their babies in poor countries.

Joep Lange, pictured in Paris in 2003, spent more than 30 years researching and fighting HIV and AIDS.JEAN AYISSI / AFP - Getty Images, file