International AIDS Society names delegates on board MH17
It has been confirmed that at least six people on board flight MH17, the Malaysian Airlines flight that was shot down over Ukraine on Friday morning, were on their way to the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne.
Of the six delegates on board the flight, in which none of the 298 passengers and crew on board survived, one was former International AIDS Society President, Joup Lange.
International AIDS Society President, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, said the AIDS community was "devastated" by the news that colleagues and friends had passed away.
"This is a moment of deep sadness for the world. We all share in the sense of grief and loss, the friends and family of all 298 people on board MH17 flight that crashed over Ukraine," said the co-founder of the AIDS virus.
"The International AIDS Society has today confirmed the devastating news that at least six delegates traveling to the AIDS 2014 Conference in Melbourne were on board, including a former President Joup Lange, and his partner.
"The extent of our loss is hard to comprehend and express. Our colleagues were traveling because of the dedication to bringing an end to AIDS.
"They were colleagues and friends for a very long time, and it's very hard for us," she said.
Those who lost their lives on flight MH17 and were traveling to the AIDS 2014 Conference include:
• Pim de Kuijer, STOP AIDS NOW!
• Joep Lange, co-director of the HIV Netherlands Australia Research Collaboration (HIV-NAT)
• Lucie van Mens, Director, AIDS Action Europe
• Maria Adriana de Schutter, AIDS Action Europe
• Glenn Thomas, World Health Organisation
• Jacqueline van Tongeren, Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development
Despite the devastation felt by the tragic incident, Barré-Sinoussi said the devotion shared by those lost, will live on.
"We will honour their commitment and keep them in our hearts as we begin our program on Sunday," she said.
Despite earlier reports approximately 100 passengers on board the plane were on their way to the conference, Barré-Sinoussi said that number was unlikely.
"We are very confident that we had at least six colleagues on board. There might be a few more, but not the number that as been announced [by the media]"
There will be opportunities during the week of the conference for people to pay their respects to those lost on flight MH17, including a special moment during the opening ceremony.
There are also concerns about just how much of an impact the losses will make on the international AIDS community, and the fight to bring AIDS to an end.
"It's a lot of solidarity between our communities, as you probably know, and this tragedy is probably a good sign for us to work again together and continue as a tribute to our colleagues"
President Elect, Professor Chris Bayer, said the conference will go ahead as it's "what their colleagues and friends would have wanted".
"We discussed this with ourselves, our friends and colleagues, and what we agreed is that the colleagues that we lost would want this conference to go forward. They would want us to have them in our hearts during the conference".
Photo: Dean Beck
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