Grabovo, Ukraine – July 18, 2014 — According to NBC News, as many as 100 leading researchers, scientists and activists in the field of AIDS and HIV study were among those lost when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down on July 17th, while traveling to the 2014 International AIDS Conference held in Melbourne, Australia. Members of the healthcare community are left reeling from such a massive loss.
Last Thursday’s crash killed all 298 people aboard the Boeing 777-200ER traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. A report from CBS News said the airplane was traveling at 33,000 feet when it was struck down over Ukraine.
The International AIDS Conference is the largest gathering of great minds from around the world who were dedicated to ending the pandemic. There, medical health professionals and advocates are able to present and discuss their findings in hopes of furthering their cause for a cure and improve global response to current treatments. In Melbourne, colleagues held a candlelight vigil and a few moments of silence in honor of those who perished in this tragedy.
Among those in the AIDS field identified to have been killed from Flight MH17 include:
- AIDS expert Dr. Joep Lange who, according to NBC News, was a former president of the International AIDS Society. He helped create the nonprofit PharmAccess Foundation to help people in developing countries receive treatment for HIV. He was also head of the department of public health at the University of Amsterdam and was described as “a great source of inspiration for everyone who aimed to contribute to solving the AIDS tragedy in Africa and Asia.
- AIDS campaigner Pim de Kuijer, a Dutch citizen, was abroad the flight. He was a lobbyist for Stop Aids Now!
- Martine de Schutter, a program manager for Bridging the Gaps at AIDS Fonds, an alliance of five Dutch organizations working to get universal access to HIV prevention and care.
The AIDS conference will not be cancelled, as many believe that those who perished would want their colleagues to continue their fight against the virus. Andrew Lesa, a delegate from New Zealand and an HIV health worker, said he believed that continuing the conference would be the best way to honor those they have lost.