Six top level researchers and AIDS experts were among the 298 people killed in the Malaysian Airline which was downed probably by a missile fired by separatists in eastern Ukraine. This news was confirmed by the International AIDS Society. Among the victims was the former president of the society.
All the members were flying to Melbourne to attend the annual week long conference which will begin on Sunday. The demise of the six top researchers has been dubbed as a serious blow to AIDS research but the Society vowed to continue their work undeterred.
The society’s president, Francoise Barre-Sinoussi spoke to reporters outside the conference hall on Saturday. “The International AIDS society has today confirmed the devastating news that at least six delegates travelling to the AIDS 2014 conference in Melbourne were on board, including our former president, Joep Lange, and his partner, Jacqueline van Tongeren. The extent of our loss is hard to comprehend and express. Our colleagues were travelling because of their dedication to bringing an end to AIDS. We will honor their commitment and keep them in our hearts as we begin our program on Sunday.”
Among the victims are Pim de Kuijer of ‘STOP AIDS NOW!’, Lucie van Mens and Maria Adriana de Schutter of ‘AIDS Action Europe’, and Glenn Thomas of the ‘World Health Organization.’
According to incoming International Aids Society President Chris Beyer, the society will desire to honor their fallen comrades and associates. This year’s conference also had a very apt theme ‘stepping up the pace’ in the crusade against the deadly scourge of the 21st century.
Chris said, “We discussed this of course, among ourselves, our friends, our colleagues, and what we agreed, and I think we had a real consensus, everyone agreed, that the colleagues we lost were people who committed their lives and their work to HIV/AIDS, and they would want this conference to go forward and that they would want us to have them in our hearts during the conference.”
The crash has brought into focus the insurgency in Ukraine where pro Russian militias are waging a war against the pro west Government of Ukraine. The rebels had earlier shot down an Ukrainian military plane in June killing all 49 people on board.