The Malaysian plane (MH17) that was shot down in the Ukraine yesterday contained over 100 of the world’s top AIDS researchers, as they were en route to a conference in Melbourne, Australia. As of midnight Australia time on Friday, conference organizers said they had only been able to confirm seven names. Among the dead are World Health Organization advisor Glenn Thomas, as well as research giant and lauded humanitarian Dr. Joep Lange and his wife, Jacqueline van Tongeren, who has been researching AIDS for three decades. So that’s 30 years of AIDS research, literally shot down. Dr. Lange has written more than 350 papers and spent his career fighting for access to low-cost AIDS treatment in Africa. The International Aids Society said that Dr Lange’s death meant “the HIV/Aids movement has truly lost a giant.” Wow. What will this mean for the future of AIDS research?
According to reports, delegates already gathered in Melbourne for pre-conference meetings were informed of the deaths of 108 of their colleagues after the plane was downed by a surface-to-air missile yesterday. Chris Beyrer, who will take over the presidency of the International AIDS Society at the end of the global conference next week said, “We have been working hard to try and confirm how many people were on the flight. We’ve been speaking to a number of different authorities, and we think the actual number is much smaller.” The conference in Melbourne from July 20-25 will be featuring the world’s leading researchers, as well as advocates and guests such as Bill Clinton and Sir Bob Geldof.
“It’s going to be a very somber mood at the conference in Melbourne, especially for those of us who have been coming to these conferences for many years,” Clive Aspin, a health researcher, told Fairfax Media. It seems many of Dr. Lange’s colleagues already feel the impact of his death. Professor David Cooper, a leading Australian HIV researcher said, “Joep was absolutely committed to the development of affordable HIV treatments, particularly combination therapies, for use in resource-poor countries. 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.”
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,” IAS said in a statement.
Overall, 189 Dutch, 44 Malaysians, 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians, 9 Brits, 4 Germans, 4 Belgians, 3 Filipinos, 1 Canadian, 1 American and 1 Kiwi lost their lives in the plane crash.
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