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14. Delegates Killed in Plane Crash Going to International AIDS Conference


The 2014 International AIDS Conference in Melbourne got off to a somber start in July after several HIV researchers and advocates en route to the meeting were killed on Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, which crashed after being hit by a missile near the Russia-Ukraine border.

None of the nearly 300 passengers on the flight survived the explosion and crash. While early reports indicated that perhaps 100 or more passengers on the flight were headed to the conference, the number proved to be much smaller.

Among them was renowned Dutch AIDS researcher and former International AIDS Society president Joep Lange. Others included World Health Organization press officer Glenn Thomas, Lucie van Mens of FHI 360, Martine de Schutter of AIDS Action Europe, and advocates Pim de Kuijer and Jacqueline van Tongeren.

International AIDS Society president Francoise Barré-Sinoussi, president-elect Chris Beyrer, conference co-chair Sharon Lewin, and others expressed their condolences and the conference's opening session included a remembrance of the lost colleagues. Several other memorials were held later, including one in New York City organized by contributor Theo Smart.

"Our hearts go out to the families of all the victims of this tragic crash," said UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibé. "The deaths of so many committed people working against HIV will be a great loss for the AIDS response."