Joep Lange

A Winnipeg expert in infectious diseases, Dr. Allan Ronald, said he was devastated to learn his friend and leading HIV expert Joep Lange, pictured here, was killed when a Malaysian plane was shot down over Ukraine Thursday. (BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS)

A Winnipeg expert in infectious diseases is grieving the loss of a friend who died in the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 crash. 

Dr. Allan Ronald knew Joep Lange, a leading HIV expert from the Netherlands who pioneered access to key AIDS medicines in poor countries. 

Ronald spent years training African physicians in HIV prevention in Nairobi and Kenya.

The Winnipeg scientist said Lange's death is a terrible loss to efforts to help those with HIV. 

"His leadership skills and his commitment to HIV control and getting access to European money, European resources for HIV," Ronald said. "He had an incredible commitment to Africa."

Ronald said he is devastated to learn Lange died so violently.

"What a frightening way to leave this world," he said. "You know, when everything is totally unexpected. Just [a] tragedy."

Lange was one of dozens of leading HIV experts on the Malaysian flight shot down over Ukraine Thursday.

The scientists and other specialists were en route to the Victoria state capital of Melbourne to attend the 20th International AIDS conference, which starts Sunday, 

Ronald said Lange was an inspiration to other scientists, and his death is a tragedy not only for his family, but for the global community in AIDS research.

"He was an enthusiastic, energetic guy who always made you feel good because he never gave up," Ronald said. "Regardless of how difficult things were, he had energy to spare."