It's being reported today that nearly 100 of the 298 people killed in the Malaysia Airlines crash were headed to Australia for a major AIDS conference. Among them was Joep Lange, a leading researcher and the former International AIDS Society president.
It's going to very somber at this year's International AIDS Conference which is scheduled to begin in Melbourne on Sunday. More than 14,000 scientists, campaigners, and politicians are expected to attend. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, delegates at a pre-conference were told that about 100 medical researchers, health workers, and activists were on the plane that went down near the Russia-Ukraine border.
In response to the death of Lange, the IAS says the AIDS community has "truly lost a giant." The BBC reports:
Joep Lange, was a professor of medicine at the University of Amsterdam, and has been involved in HIV research since the virus first emerged in the 1980s. He trialled antiretroviral therapies, which have now transformed HIV into a manageable disease. He also worked on preventing the virus passing from mother to child during pregnancy and labour. Prof Lange is described as a leader in his field, and between 2002 and 2004 was the president of the International Aids Society.
Prof Peter Riess, who also worked at the University of Amsterdam, told the BBC: "Joep was a close colleague and friend of mine. Everyone here in Melbourne is in total shock at what happened.
"In the early eighties when this strange new disease hit Amsterdam, both Joep and I were training at the time and were confronted with this new disease which then went on to shape our scientific and medical careers.
"He's been really involved from the very beginning."
Lange's partner, Jacqueline van Tongeren, was also reportedly on board. Also on the plane was Glenn Thomas, a media spokesman from the World Health Organization (WHO), and Dr. Peter MacPherson, an HIV researcher at the Liverpool School of Hygiene Tropical Medicine.
Image: AP/Dmitry Lovetsky.