100-Plus HIV/AIDS Researchers On MH17: 'Devastating Impact'

The international medical community was shocked to find out MH17 was carrying more than 100 researchers bound for an HIV/AIDS conference in Australia.
Posted at 9:37 AM, Jul 18, 2014

What was supposed to be a meeting of some of the greatest medical minds in the world fighting HIV turned into a place to eulogize fallen colleagues.

​As more and more information came out on Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, apparently shot down over Ukraine, the International AIDS Society revealed more than 100 researchers on their way to a conference in Melbourne, Australia, were on board. The conference was set to begin this weekend. (Via YouTube / PainkillerBOH, Fox News)

Much of the early coverage of the deaths focused on Dutch researcher Joep Lange, a former International AIDS Society president. (Via ​The Sydney Morning Herald)

Colleagues said Lange was one of the first to fight the false stigma in the 1980s that HIV only affected gay men and received significant backlash for trying to help patients when the virus was largely misunderstood.

JOEP LANGE, FORMER INTERNATIONAL AIDS SOCIETY PRESIDENT: "There's a very good side about HIV activism, but there's also a very nasty and irrational side."

Current IAS president Françoise Barré-Sinoussi spoke to reporters about her colleague after learning of the plane crash.

FRANCOISE ​BARRE-SINOUSSI: "Has been trying forever — for his life — to give for the benefit of mankind." (Via Getty ImagesSky News)

Friday morning nearly 24 hours after the plane went down, officials around the world were still trying to confirm who was on board. Ukraine and pro-Russian militants have denied shooting down MH17 and blamed each other for the crash.  (Via Новороссия Новоросы,

Several media outlets continue to say "up to" or "as many as" 100 people on MH17 were en route to the HIV/AIDS conference in Melbourne, but reporters in Australia speaking with conference officials put the total at 108.

Barré-Sinoussi told reporters it was too early to estimate the impact of such a large loss to the HIV research community, but others didn't hold back their assessment. (Via The Australian)

The federal president of the Australian Medical Association told Time"The amount of knowledge that these people who died on the plane were carrying with them and the experiences they had developed will have a devastating impact on HIV research. The amount of time it takes to get to a stage where you can come up with those ideas cannot be replaced in a short amount of time."

The International AIDS Society released a statement saying the conference in Melbourne would go on "in recognition of our colleagues' dedication to the fight against HIV/AIDS."