Over 100 people who were flying to attend the AIDS 2014 conference in Melbourne have been killed following the attack that brought down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 on the Russian-Ukraine border.
Among the victims of the crash, where some 300 people are estimated to have lost their lives, was Joep Lange, a former president of the International Aids Society He was part of a party of researchers flying from Amsterdam to attend the conference.
David Cooper, director of the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales in Australia, paid tribute to his friend and colleague, saying that Prof Lange “had an absolute commitment to HIV treatment and care in Asia and Africa”. He added that “the joy in collaborating with Joep was that he would always bring a fresh view, a unique take on things, and he never accepted that something was impossible to achieve. Our joint work in Bangkok, the HIVNAT centre, will stand as his legacy”.
Among those murdered was Glenn Thomas, a British media officer for the World Health Organisation. "We have lost a wonderful person and a great professional," said WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib, adding that “our hearts are broken. We are all in shock."
The IAS, convenors of AIDS 2014, said it is continuing to work with the authorities to clarify “how the tragic loss of Malaysian Airlines flight MH 17 impacts our conference delegates, our conference partners and our community as a whole”. It added that “in recognition of our colleagues' dedication to the fight against HIV/AIDS, the conference will go ahead as planned and will include opportunities to reflect and remember those we have lost”.
The two sides in Ukraine's civil conflict have accused each other of shooting down the aeroplane with a missile.