Marcel van Soest

Activists and workers in the HIV/AIDS field have expressed their sadness at the death of leading Dutch campaigner Marcel van Soest.

Van Soest, an epidemiologist and the Executive Director of the World AIDS Campaign (WAC), passed away at the age of 46 last week in Amsterdam.

He launched WAC in 2004, expanding it from a one-man operation to an international organisation with offices in Amsterdam and Cape Town. Its projects range from grassroots schemes in Africa to global events like World AIDS Day.

After studying epidemiology and social geography at Radboud University in the Netherlands, van Soest received his Master’s degree in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University. He worked for almost 10 years with Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) Holland taking up field positions in Africa and Asia and at its headquarters in Amsterdam.

Van Soest was also an Operational Director and Steering Committee Member of the international MSF campaign “Access to Essential Medicines” where he fought tirelessly to bring the needs of people living with HIV to the forefront of MSF’s agenda.

“His commitment to transparency, accountability and inclusiveness was unquestionable. His ability to reach out to marginalised key populations to help ensure that within the World AIDS Campaign every voice was heard and respected was legendary,” said WAC in a statement.

The Global Network of People living with HIV expressed its shock and grief at Van Soest’s death. “Marcel was a passionate leader with a vision to bring together all of civil society to make the HIV response better and more inclusive,” it said.

UNAIDS said that it was deeply saddened by the news, describing Van Soest as “a passionate AIDS activist committed to making the world a better place for people living with and affected by HIV”.

Said UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibe: “I was heartbroken to learn of this news. Marcel reached out to and changed the lives of many people across continents. The AIDS response has suffered a terrible loss with his passing and I mourn for his family and friends.”

Van Soest is survived by his mother, his partner and his son.

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