Over 100 researchers, including Joep Lange, a prominent HIV researcher and former president of the International AIDS Society, may be victims of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. They were headed to the International HIV/AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia beginning July 20th. The conference was meeting to discuss the epidemic, how far research has come, and what more needs to be done to eradicate it altogether.
"There's been confirmed a number of senior people who were coming out here who were researchers, who were medical scientists, doctors, people who've been to the forefront of deal with AIDS across the world," Victoria Premier Denis Napthine told reporters in Melbourne on Friday. "The exact number is not yet known, but there is no doubt it's a substantial number."
The Australian has reported that up to 108 delegates to the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, which starts on Sunday, are believed to have died on MH17.
The International AIDS Society issued a brief statement on Thursday saying that a "number of colleagues and friends" were on the flight.
"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," the statement said.
One of the most preeminent researchers on the flight, Joep Lange, is presumed to be a victim as well as World Health Organization spokesman Glenn Thomas.
Lange is well known in the field with dozens of publications and clinical trials involving antiretroviral therapies and the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. He also previously served as president of the International AIDS Society from 2002 to 2004.
It is undoubtedly a huge loss for the HIV/AIDS research community as well as the world.