The world is grieving after Malaysia Airlines flight 17 was shot down above eastern Ukraine with 298 people on board. The crash has devastated at least 11 nations, with many passengers still yet to be identified.
All on board perished in the fiery crash in rebel-held territory near Torez, Ukraine at approximately 7.11pm local time. It was en route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam.
Researchers, activists, and scientists were all headed to Australia when their plane was reportedly shot down over Ukraine.
Reports indicate at least 108 people on the doomed Malaysia Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were headed to Sunday’s 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne. That would be about one-third of the 298 passengers aboard the plane.
Australian media reported the grim news, which is now being picked up by American media. AIDS Conference attendees on Flight MH17 were headed to Melbourne; the flight continued from Kuala Lumpur to Perth, Australia, where they were going to connect to Melbourne.
One of the most prominent attendees was Joep Lange, who heads the Department of Global Health at the University of Amsterdam and served as a former president of the International AIDS Society. Lange had worked to combat HIV since the earliest days of the disease, helping advance antiretrovirals and slow mother-to-child transmission. Also on board was Glenn Raymond Thomas, a Swiss spokesman for the World Health Organization.
Organizers of the AIDS Conference released a statement that said, in part, “At this incredibly sad and sensitive time the International AIDS Society stands with our international family and sends condolences to the loved ones of those who have been lost to this tragedy.”
The Human Rights Campaign also issued a statement: “HRC wishes to extend our condolences to the friends and families of everyone aboard Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17. We are deeply saddened to learn about the deaths of the many HIV/AIDS advocates believed to be on the plane.
HRC joins the international community in mourning the loss of all those who lost their lives today, including such dedicated health professionals. They will be sorely missed.”
American academic and AIDS activist Gregg Gonsalves tweeted that “lots of AIDS researchers, activists, officials on downed Malaysia Airlines flight to Melbourne for Intl AIDS Conference”, naming Lange.
“Joep Lange was a leading AIDS researcher and clinician and an activist at heart. Lost today too soon on Malaysian flight 017. RIP,” he said.
The International AIDS Society confirmed in a statement that “a number of our colleagues and friends” en route to the conference were on Flight MH17.
“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,” it said.
Held every two years, the International AIDS Conference also is a forum for campaigners to highlight grassroots and financing problems.
It is due to start on Sunday with the 12,000 participants joined this year by former US president Bill Clinton and rock singer and poverty activist Bob Geldof.
We ALL are connected through HUMANITY!!