The Malaysian passenger plane that was shot down over Ukraine on Thursday was carrying more than 100 public health experts on their way to a prominent international meeting on AIDS, according to several news reports. Their deaths have prompted an outpouring of grief from the scientific community.
Those passengers were on their way to the 20th International AIDS Conference,
which begins on Sunday in Melbourne, Australia. The group hosting the
event expressed its “sincere sadness” at receiving the news in a statement released on the afternoon of Malaysia Airlines MH17′s fatal crash.
According to the Associated Press,
the exact number of individuals who were killed on their way to the
conference is unconfirmed. However, Australian officials have noted that
“there is no doubt it’s a substantial number” that includes “medical
scientists, doctors, people who’ve been to the forefront of dealing with
AIDS across the world.”
“The cure for AIDS may have been on that plane, we just don’t know,”
Trevor Stratton, an HIV/AIDS consultant who in Sydney for a
pre-conference event, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
The plane’s passengers included Joep Lange, the former president of
the International AIDS Society and a tireless advocate for expanding
access to affordable HIV treatment in impoverished countries.