Several passengers aboard Malaysian flight MH17, which was shot down near the Ukraine-Russia border by a Russian surface-to-air missile, reportedly were AIDS researchers and staff traveling to the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne.
Unconfirmed reports are coming in from friends and colleagues that several, and possibly dozens, of the nearly 300 passengers aboard Malaysian flight MH17, enroute to Australia when it was blown out of the sky without warning by a Russian surface-to-air missile, were headed to the 20th anniversary of the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne.
@statedept MT AramBarra: Pim de Kuijer (Stop Aids now) and Martine de Schutter (Aids fonds) were also on the plane.— RQ Skye (@rqskye) July 17, 2014
Lots of AIDS researchers, activists, officials on downed Malaysia Airlines flight to Melbourne for Intl AIDS Conference.— Gregg Gonsalves (@gregggonsalves) July 17, 2014
There are reports that Joep Lange, a veteran #HIV/AIDS researcher from the Netherlands, was aboard MH17, en route to AIDS2014 in Melbourne.— Martin Enserink (@martinenserink) July 17, 2014
The International AIDS Conference released this short statement minutes ago:
The International AIDS Society (IAS) today expresses its sincere sadness at receiving news that a number of colleagues and friends en route to attend the 20th International AIDS Conference taking place in Melbourne, Australia, were on board the Malaysian Airlines MH17 flight that has crashed over Ukraine earlier today.
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.
Austraia's The Age reports that "about 14,000 people from more than 200 countries, including Nobel laureates, leading scientists, government officials and people living with HIV, are convening in Melbourne to assess how far the world has come in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and to seek consensus on what more needs to be done."
On Twitter, the hashtag #AIDS2014 has become filled with updates and messages of condolence.