Jul 212014

3368315 - Was a Cure for #AIDS Stolen With #MH17 Tragedy?

Dutch officials on Friday provided this photo of International AIDS Society (IAS) former president, Joep Lange, after MH17 crashed on Thursday, July 17, 2014. Joep Lange is seen here in October 2008. A large number of world-renowned AIDS researchers and activists heading to an international AIDS conference in Melbourne, Australia were on board the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 Boeing 777-200ER airliner that was shot down over eastern Ukraine, officials said Friday, as news of their deaths sparked an outpouring of grief across the global scientific community. Among them was Joep Lange, a well-known researcher from the Netherlands (AP Photo/Peter Lowie/AMC Amsterdam).

Video Credit: The Telegraph (U.K.). Leading members of the AIDS research community pay tribute to colleagues who were travelling on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, when it crashed in Ukraine

MH17 human tool of lives lost is simply gut-renching.

Above all, the MH17 loss should NOT have happened. The human story irrevocably tied to the MH17 aviation disaster in Donetsk (Ukraine) is how to bring closure to the families and friends grieving for 298 lost loved ones aboard MH17, as well as, for the lost loved ones, who have disappeared aboard MH370.

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Photo Credit: Just a half dozen MH17 loved ones lost of the 298 souls now gone among us Thursday, July 17, 2014. (Top row from left) Dr. Joep Lange (former president of the International AIDS Society), Dr. Jill Guard (and her husband Dr. Roger Guard, not shown), Marie Rizk, (bottom row from left) Nick Norris, Albert Rizk, Elaine Teoh

Let me tell you how I felt this weekend, not only as an airlines and aviation enthusiast, but more important, as a humanist, about this man-made disaster and tragedy. First of all, like everyone watching the extreme outrageous nature of this ridiculous incident unfold, I felt just awful for the 298 people lost on board MH17. Besides this, I just could not forget the 239 people, who simply vanished on board MH370.

On Thursday, as a caring human being, I, along with many others around the world, grieved for all 537 of their souls. Our collective sympathies and thoughtful prayers go out to all of the families and friends of the 298 loves ones grieved for aboard MH17, as well as, the 239 loved ones grieved for aboard MH370.

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Second, I thought of one of many youths, including three infant children on board MH17, who were taken too soon in their early lives.

Quinn Lucas Schansman, having dual United States and Dutch citizenship, was the only named U.S. citizen, who perished on board MH17 on July 17. The plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine, allegedly by Russian separatists using sophisticated advanced computerized missile technology. (Source: Facebook)

Third, I thought of the poor woman, who lost loved ones on both Malaysia Airlines flights MH17 and MH370.

An Australian woman who lost family on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has also lost next-of-kin on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which was shot down by an unidentified rocket, as it transited the airspace above eastern Ukraine.

BuzzFeed reports the woman is Kaylene Mann, who lives in the city of Queensland. She lost her brother on flight MH17. She also lost here sister-in-law, when flight MH370 mysteriously disappeared on its way to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital.

1b0a95f - Was a Cure for #AIDS Stolen With #MH17 Tragedy?Photo Credit: Kaylene Mann, right, and Jayden Burrows hold hands, as they read a statement to the media in Brisbane, Australia, about the loss of Rod Burrows, who is Kaylene’s brother.

No words I could write further here could ease her gut-renching pain at this moment.

But most of all, upon viewing the opening video of this article all weekend, I thought about the heartbreaking pain of the AIDS humanitarian community for the six AIDS researchers who perished, and what the world has been denied in scientific contribution and medical knowledge.

We all probably lost a potential cure for AIDS on MH17, as six top AIDS scientists and attendees to an international AIDS conference were on-board that Boeing 777-200ER.

These six passengers on the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 shot down over eastern Ukraine on Thursday were headed to the biennial 2014 International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia. It is one of the largest research conferences in the world, which first began back in 1985, where scientists, humanitarians, advocates, and policymakers gather to share the latest progress in the four decade battle against the ravaging HIV-viral disease, reports Slate, Forbes and The Washington Post.

Among the many lost were two giants of the HIV-virus research community. “Both Joep Lange and Jacqueline van Tongeren meant a lot to us, as colleagues and as friends,” an anguished Brandon O’Dell of the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development (AIGHD), told Slate.

Lange was once the president of the International AIDS Society (IAS), which organizes the conference. Van Tongeren, his partner, was a nurse and advocate and head of communications for the AIGHD.

In an address to the nation on Friday at noon, President Obama said “nearly 100” of those killed — one third of the 298 people on board — may have been en route to the 2014 International Aids Conference in Melbourne, which is scheduled to begin this weekend. The White House said the figure came from remarks made by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

*Correction the above Australian and U.S. official statements, July 20, 2014: These officials originally misstated that about 100 passengers killed on MH17 were flying to the International AIDS Conference, an estimate that was widely reported before the release of the MH17 passenger manifest. After more information has now been released, the International AIDS Society has reported that only six delegates were among those killed on MH17.

Nonetheless, any number of extraordinary AIDS research delegates stolen away from us on MH17 is one too many in the world fight to find a cure for AIDS. The AIDS scientific and medical community owes a tremendous debt to the dedication and extraordinary work of Lange, van Tongeren, and their four other colleagues who died on board MH17.

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Photograph: Graham Denholm/Getty Images. One minute’s silence is held for the six victims of flight MH17 during the AIDS 2014 symposium in Melbourne on Sunday night.

New AIDS infections have been on the decline globally, shrinking by 38 percent since 2001, according to new figures from the United Nations. Fewer children are infected with AIDS, and fewer people living with HIV are succumbing to disease.

The work by humanitarians, such as Lange, who founded the PharmAccess Foundation, a charity that helps improve drug access in sub-Saharan Africa, has helped increase the number of people in low- and middle-income countries on antiretroviral drug therapy.

In just the last decade, the number treated in these countries climbed from 300,000 in 2002 to 9.7 million in 2012.

The MH17 loss of life substantially impacts this year’s AIDS conference. The researchers now attending the conference are continuing forward in their efforts to find solutions to this grand-challenge problem of medicine the world faces. The work of HIV/AIDS researchers all around the world is inspired now to reach forward to a cure. Yet, they also understand that six of the fellow warriors in the four decade fight against HIV/AIDS has fallen much too soon. And, perhaps, a cure for HIV/AIDS might have been stolen by the MH17 aviation disaster.

“In recognition of our colleagues’ dedication to the fight against HIV/AIDS, the conference will go ahead as planned and will include opportunities to reflect and remember those we have lost,” the International AIDS Society said in a statement.

“Everyone here is completely committed to carrying out the vision that Joep and Jacqueline have for combating AIDS,” O’Dell told Slate. Though the 2014 International AIDS Conference, which runs from July 20 to July 25, will no doubt be a muted and somber affair, there are hope and dignity in the resolve of those carrying on the mission of those who died in the attack. As Dean Beck, a local journalist in Melbourne covering the conference, put it to me, his voice breaking over the telephone line: “The HIV community knows all too much about grief. But whatever the loss, it is a unified tragedy that will propel us forward.”

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Photo Credit: Among the passengers aboard MH17 was Dr. Joep Lange (shown in the photo here), a former president of the International AIDS Society (IAS) from the Netherlands, who has been a leading expert in the field of HIV/AIDS, since the 1980s.

Chris Beyrer, IAS president-elect, said Thursday that if Lange perished on the flight, “the HIV/AIDS movement has truly lost a giant.”

“In this incredibly sad and sensitive time, the IAS stands with its international family and sends condolences to the loved ones of those who have been lost in this tragedy,” Beyrer told reporters.

Lange’s partner, HIV/AIDS researcher Jacqueline van Tongeren, was also a passenger on the downed plane.

Lange’s longtime friend and colleague, Dr. Michael Merson, said the Dutch scientist was one of the first to use antiretroviral drugs to fight HIV and became an expert in the treatment.

“He really was very special and if you were to come up with the leaders in AIDS [since] the pandemic began in 1981,” said Merson, who is director of the Duke Global Health Institute. “You’d put him among the top five leaders.”

Merson said in the 22 years he knew Lange, the scientist started numerous initiatives to combat the HIV/AIDS in Europe and Africa. After drugs to control HIV started to gain traction in the mid 1990s, Lange focused his efforts on global health initiatives to get the medication to anyone who needed it.

“His second home was Africa, he worked in east Africa and Asia and Latin America,” said Merson. “He would stay it like it is. He was an outstanding scientists and fierce advocate.”

Merson said he has no doubt that Lange’s work will continue.

“There’s no question there will be loss and there will be some things that slow down,” said Merson. “But he has great colleagues and dedicated scientists and researchers that are in his institute in Amsterdam. He knows that they want him to continue. “

World Health Organization spokesperson Glenn Thomas was also aboard MH17 to the Melbourne conference, the organization confirmed.

“His twin sister says he died doing what he loved,” WHO said in a statement. “Glenn will be remembered for his ready laugh and his passion for public health.”


Special Correction Note (July 22, 2014): LinkedIn Editor Isabelle Roughol graciously brought to my attention that there may be a possible misunderstanding here that Roger Detels is one of the MH17 victims I am making the above tribute to, when in fact, Roger Detels was not on the MH17 flight. Roger Detels is indeed alive and well, and he is NOT one of the six AIDS conference victim on MH17.

In this appendix section of the article (an optional read, of course), I am only attempting to present an optimistic closing outlook that in the middle of deepest despair, there is always a light at the end of a dark tunnel that always leads us to keep moving forward to healing.

The work of Roger Detels that I have met has shed that light onto me as well as so many others he’s worked with and patients he’s treated in his four decades of work in the fight for a cure to HIV/AIDS. Detels is united with the many dedicated AIDS researchers committed to the advancement of scientific knowledge for a cure to HIV/AIDS.

Thank you so much LinkedIn Editor Isabelle Roughol for bringing this to my attention to include this important special correction note.

My honorable time with a pioneering team of AIDS researchers, who discovered the HIV-virus at UCLA.

As a 2012-13 American Council on Education Fellow to UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, upon arriving on campus on November 1, 2012, one of the first formal gatherings on campus I attended was the UCLA Faculty Senate’s Distinguished Faculty Research Lecture, which is bestowed annually at UCLA to a single faculty member. The Lecture is followed by a lavish reception in honor of the extraordinary faculty pioneer and his team of researchers and graduate and undergraduate student researchers at UCLA.

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I had the pleasure of attending Roger Detels‘ Faculty Research Lecture, “Hang In and Have Smart Friends: The Road to HIV Resistance,” on November 15, 2012 at 3 p.m. in UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall.

Roger Detels — UCLA’s distinguished professor of epidemiology and infectious diseases — has over four decades addressed the world’s most difficult grand-challenge questions on HIV/AIDS we, as human being, face today.

That day, I had the distinct pleasure of spending an enormous amount of wonderful hours with the pioneering Detels HIV/AIDS research teams, learning about the process of searching out a cure for AIDS very early-on in the inception of this pandemic disease, when it began in 1981, dating as far back as the original forty patients on New York’s Fire Island and the origins of the Patient Zero Theory.

According to Wikipedia, “Gaëtan Dugas ([ɡaetɑ̃ dyˈɡa]; February 20, 1953 – March 30, 1984) was a Canadian who worked for Air Canada as a flight attendant. In March 1984, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study tracking the sexual liaisons and practices of gay, and bisexual men in California, New York, and some other states found Dugas to be the center of a network of sexual partners, and he was dubbed “patient 0”. After the study, mistaken assertions claimed he brought the HIV virus to the U.S., but Dugas was not the initial carrier of the infection to North America. He is used as an example in epidemiology of an index case.”

In 1981, Detels started a study of AIDS in young homosexual men in Los Angeles and, in 1983, he formed a collaborative study with centers at three other institutions: Pittsburgh, Northwestern and Johns Hopkins. This study, known as the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS), is still going strong some 30 years later.

Discussing with the Detels HIVAIDS research teams about their painstaking work over some delicious wine and cheese in UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall on November 15, 2012, was one of the most extraordinary moment during my wonderful time, as UCLA Chancellor Gene Block’s 2012-13 American Council on Education Fellow, who I might add is also an extraordinary researcher on sleep theory.

In honor of the ongoing push for a cure for HIV/AIDS, upon this sad weekend following the loss of six extraordinary AIDS researchers and scientists on MH17, please do honor and celebrate the medical science community’s push forward in the aftermath of MH17, by reading this then-UCLA newsroom release about AIDS pioneer Dr. Roger Detels’ team at UCLA in identifying the inception of the HIV-virus, which is the cause of the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, known as AIDS.

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APPENDIX: “Pioneer in HIV/AIDS research works on a global scale

by Wendy Soderburg | November 08, 2012, UCLA Newsroom

When he was an undergraduate student at Harvard University in 1958, Roger Detels spent three months as an exchange student in Kanazawa, Japan.

As one of the first few Americans in Kanazawa after the war, Detels — today a UCLA distinguished professor of epidemiology and infectious diseases — still recalls with amusement many of his experiences with his Japanese host family.

“I arrive in Kanazawa and my family takes me around the house, and they’re talking to me in Japanese, of course,” said Detels, who had studied as much Japanese as he could on the boat trip from Hawaii to Kanazawa. “And I could tell that they were apologizing for how small the rooms were.”

Wanting to say something nice, Detels said, “Ah, kirai desu.” He got no reaction. The same thing happened with each room.

Finally, Detels discovered that he and the older daughter both spoke a little bit of German. “And what had happened was, I meant to say, ‘Ah, kirei desu,’ which means, ‘It’s beautiful.’ But I said, ‘kirai,’ which means, ‘I don’t like it.’ “

He laughed heartily at the memory. “We managed to survive that one,” he said.

That first experience in Japan actually turned out to be the first of many Asian adventures for Detels, who received his B.A. from Harvard later that same year. He went on to New York University where, while working toward an M.D. that he earned in 1962, he served his elective period at the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit (NAMRU-2) in Taipei, Taiwan.

“That experience made me realize that one-on-one medicine was not very efficient; that if I really wanted to have an impact, I should get into the area of epidemiology and public health,” Detels said. “I realized that was going to have a much greater impact than seeing patients one at a time.”

While in Taipei, Detels worked with Professor Thomas Grayston, who had organized a department of preventive medicine and started a residency program in epidemiology at the University of Washington. Detels completed the residency program and also earned an M.S. from the University of Washington in 1966.

After graduation, Detels was drafted into the U.S. Navy and requested to be sent back to NAMRU-2 in Taipei, where he lived for three years with his wife, Mimi, and their two sons, Martin and Edward. During his tour of duty he did research in the Philippines, Bangkok and Taiwan, field-testing the rubella vaccine and studying tropical diseases. Once his Navy service was fulfilled, Detels took a position as a medical officer for the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

Two years later, in 1970, Detels joined the UCLA faculty as an associate professor in what is now UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health. “When I got here, there was only one faculty member in epidemiology, and he promptly retired upon my arrival,” Detels said, laughing. As a young professor, Detels quickly learned how to teach courses and set about recruiting new colleagues and expanding the department, which today has approximately 40 faculty, including in-residence and adjunct appointments.

In 1981, Detels started a study of AIDS in young homosexual men in Los Angeles and, in 1983, he formed a collaborative study with centers at three other institutions: Pittsburgh, Northwestern and Johns Hopkins. This study, known as the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS), is still going strong some 30 years later.

Detels also runs the UCLA/Fogarty AIDS International Training and Research Program for health professionals from China, Southeast Asia and India, who come here to earn advanced degrees in epidemiology. “But I insist that they go back to their home countries to do the field work for their dissertations,” Detels said. “I feel that doing their dissertations in the United States is irrelevant for them. One of the requirements is that they can’t get into the program unless they agree to go back to their home countries.”

Besides currently serving as adviser to 15-20 doctoral students, teaching two graduate courses and an introductory public health course for 280 undergraduates, and delivering guest lectures, Detels is also senior editor of the recently published book, “Public Health in East and Southeast Asia: Challenges and Opportunities in the 21st Century” (UC Press, 2012).

On Nov. 15, Detels will deliver UCLA’s 113th Faculty Research Lecture at the invitation of the Academic Senate.

Said Professor of Epidemiology Zuo-Feng Zhang of his colleague, “It is hard to identify any faculty who has had such outstanding academic achievements as Dr. Detels at UCLA, in terms of his research (as a pioneer in many different areas such as HIV/AIDS, air pollution and cancer) and his lectureship. In addition, he has trained more than 300 health professionals, including over 100 Ph.D. graduates in epidemiology.”

Added Zhang, who nominated Detels for the Faculty Research Lectureship, “The UCLA Academic Senate has made a great decision to choose Dr. Detels from a very competitive pool of candidates.”

Of the honor, Detels said that he was thankful to UCLA for giving him the opportunity and the support to conduct his research.

“A lot of [thanks] goes to my fellow faculty and my students. One of the things I’ve tried to teach students — and this is particularly difficult with students from Asia — is to tell me I’m crazy,” said Detels, who encourages them to argue or question research on a collegial basis. “I’m reasonably successful. They don’t let me get away with anything; they ask me questions and they demand an explanation.”

This give-and-take, Detels said, has resulted in a circle of colleagues in the medical school and in the school of public health and epidemiology “who are constantly contributing ideas or arguing with ideas. I can have bull sessions with them. That is the way research advances, and it’s a very exciting process.”

That Detels’ work satisfies and sustains him is quite clear.

“You know, I’m 76 years old and I haven’t retired. And the reason I haven’t retired is because I revel in the collegiality and excitement of research and teaching.”

Detels will present his Faculty Research Lecture, “Hang In and Have Smart Friends: The Road to HIV Resistance,” on Nov. 15 at 3 p.m. in Schoenberg Hall. For more information, visit this website.


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