Joseph Marie Albert Lange was born in Nieuwenhagen, Limburg, in a catholic family. His youth is characterized by literature, and more literature– the only escape in a small provincial village. He wanted to become a writer, and to do so, he needed to find a way to leave his old town. Academic excellence provided that escape. He excelled in literature and sciences and decided to pursue a career as a doctor, back then still thinking it would be his route towards eventually becoming a writer.
An unknown virus is sweeping through the world, especially in the young, gay men community. No doctor could name the illness or explain why the trio had suffered fulminant deaths.
Joep comes across his first HIV/AIDS case on the ward of the AMC, where he was working with doctors such as Peter Reiss.
Joep PHD – “Aids was a guaranteed death sentence back then – Joep helped to change that. He ran from the ward to the lab clutching vials of his patients’ blood in his long fingers, the tails of his white coat flapping as he hurried along the corridors of the University of Amsterdam’s Academic Medical Center. This new disease couldn’t be battled at the bedside alone. He needed to be at the lab bench, interrogating the virus that caused AIDS. Switching between stethoscope and microscope, petri dishes and patients, Joep stripped HIV to its bare bones, revealing the virus’s anatomy and deciphering its Achilles’ heel. While working on his PhD in the mid 1980’s, he made seminal discoveries about HIV and AIDS. Over the next thirty years, he published close to four hundred articles and saved, by some estimates, millions of lives.” (source: The Impatient Dr. Lange)
As the virus mutated very quickly, a singular solution would not suffice. Joep began advocating for the use of combination therapy, rather than monotherapy, in the management of HIV/AIDS. He experimented with “cocktails” of medicine. In 1995 Joep conducted extensive studies on HIV transmission between HIV-positive mothers and children in Rwanda and Uganda. He found that a baby’s chance of contracting HIV reduces to less than 1% when treated with anti-retroviral drugs. According to Lange, these findings clearly demonstrated the comparable efficacy of nervirapine and efavirenz in HIV treatment.