As many as one-third of the passengers
on the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 that crashed in Ukraine were
headed to Melbourne, Australia to attend the 20th annual
International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014), which gets underway
According to various news
sources, as many as 108 of the flight's 298 passengers were bound
for the conference, including Joep Lange, a top researcher.
“In recognition of our colleagues'
dedication to the fight against HIV/AIDS, the conference will go
ahead as planned and will include opportunities to reflect and
remember those we have lost,” the International AIDS Society, the
conference's organizer, said
in a statement.
The Kirby Institute, an
Australian-based medical research organization, confirmed in a
statement that Lange, who heads the Department of Global Health at
the University of Amsterdam, was among the flight's passengers. Also
on the plane was Lange's research assistant, Jacqueline van Tongeren.
“Joep was a great source of
inspiration for everyone who aimed to contribute to solving the AIDS
tragedy in Africa and Asia,” the University of Amsterdam said
in a statement. “He was shocked to see how, from 1996 onwards,
expensive HIV therapies became available to patients in rich
countries, but not in Africa, and he made it his mission to change
this and to put an end to the gross inequality in access to
“The cure for AIDS may have been on
that plane, we just don't know,” Trevor Stratton, an HIV/AIDS
consultant, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). “You
can't just help but wonder about the kind of expertise on that
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the
nation's largest LGBT rights advocate, said in a statement that it
was “deeply saddened to learn about the deaths of the many HIV/AIDS
advocates believed to be on the plane.”
A vigil was held on Victoria Bridge to
honor lost colleagues.