Joep Lange saved my life. Twenty-seven years ago, while I was living in Mexico, I learned that I had HIV, and some friends put me in touch with him. I was given AZT, the only medicine available at the time. But the virus quickly adapts to the AZT, and after a while it became resistant. At that point Joep arranged to get a different medicine for me, one that was still in the experimental stage, and when the effect of that wore off, he made sure I got another, and then another. "We have to fight for a combination therapy," Joep always said, expressing an opinion that was not shared by all his colleagues.
In 1996 I finally obtained access to that combination of medicines, which was more effective and longer-lasting and had fewer side effects. Nevertheless, in late 2001, the virus attacked my brain and triggered encephalitis. For weeks I hovered between life and death. Every day Joep came to see me, and he was also intensively involved in my recovery. Things have been going well for years now, but whenever my Spanish doctor had to readjust my treatment, he did it in consultation with Joep. It was as if Joep and I were crossing a raging river, me holding Joep's hand, the two of us jumping from one rock to another.
As the years passed we became closer friends. Joep loved reading. He recommended my debut novel, Blood Brothers, to a journalist, and we exchanged books: Philip Roth, Alice Munro, Julian Barnes. In addition to the many projects Joep launched, he also took the time to help me set up the ArtAids Foundation. Joep had brilliant ideas, and he didn't hesitate to sound the critical note whenever it was needed. He could also be incredibly stubborn.
Wherever Joep was, there was Jacqueline, his partner. Jacqueline was a beautiful, sensitive woman whose personal life was all about giving. She gave of her time, her attention and her energy, and she never asked for anything in return.
She took intense pleasure in art, music and ballet, interests she shared with Joep. But what they both enjoyed most, as do I, was sitting with friends at a well-laid table and talking for hours. We had dozens of meals like this over the years -- in Amsterdam, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Bangkok, and at Ca'l Estevet, our local restaurant in Barcelona, where my partner Felipe and I live.
Our last contact was a text message that Jacqueline sent me from the plane a few minutes before takeoff. She told me that she was already looking forward to the tasty Asian snacks that were on the menu. "I've got to go now, we're leaving."
Joep and Jacqueline are gone, but what they've left behind isn't just the long list of projects and activities they fostered. It's also the warmth and love that we, their friends and family, received from them, and that lives on in us. And that is an enormous consolation at this time of bewilderment and grief.