Global Aids community mourns loss of friends and colleagues in MH17 crash

Many of those on flight MH17 were experts in Aids research, flying to Kuala Lumpur to make a connecting flight for the 20th International Aids Conference in Melbourne, Australia.

World Health Organisation spokesman Glenn Thomas, one of dozens of health experts and officials on MH17. Photo: AAP/United Nations, CC BY
World Health Organisation spokesman Glenn Thomas, one of dozens of health experts and officials on MH17. Photo: AAP/United Nations, CC BY

The international Aids community is mourning the deaths of researchers whose plane was shot down over Ukraine and who were travelling to Melbourne for a global Aids conference.

The former International Aids Society president Joep Lange and his partner and ArtAids board member Jacqueline van Tongeren have been confirmed as having been on the flight, while there are reports of others including a World Health Organization spokesman, Glenn Thomas.

298 people – 283 passengers including three infants and 15 crew – were killed on the Malaysia Airlines flight 17.

Global leaders mourned
David Cooper, director of the Kirby Institute at UNSW Australia, was a friend of Joep Lange. He received a call at 3am telling him that Lange and his partner were on the flight.

Professor Cooper said his colleague of 30 years had “an absolute commitment to HIV treatment and care in Asia and Africa”.

“Joep was absolutely committed to the development of affordable HIV treatments, particularly combination therapies, for use in resource-poor countries,” Professor Cooper said.

Professor Lange was a professor of medicine and head of the Department of Global Health at the Academic Medical Centre at the University of Amsterdam. He served as president of the International Aids Society from 2002 to 2004.

In his 30 years of researching HIV, he led pivotal trials of antiretroviral therapy and published more than 350 papers in peer-reviewed journals.

“Another outstanding area of [Lange’s] contribution has been his pioneering role in exploring affordable and simple antiretroviral drug regimens for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in resource-poor settings,” Professor Cooper said.

“Both of these have been part of his dedication to increasing access to effective HIV treatment.

“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.”

More AIDS2014 delegates feared lost
Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has told reporters this morning: “A number of people who were travelling to Malaysia for an international Aids conference were also on board”.

The Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was due to connect with a flight to Perth, before people travelled onto Melbourne, Reuters and others have reported.

UNAIDS director Michael Sidibe, who is already in Melbourne for the week-long 20th International Aids Conference, tweeted: “Many passengers were enroute to #AIDS2014 here in #Melbourne.”

The conference organisers, the International AIDS Society, released a statement expressing “sincere sadness” at the news of the M17 disaster:

At this incredibly sad and sensitive time the IAS stands with our international family and sends condolences to the loved ones of those who have been lost to this tragedy."

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.The Conversation

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