AIDS researchers en route to conference among the victims of downed Malaysian jet

Fri. July 18, 2014 6:53 AM by Wisconsin Gazette

Several prominent researchers headed to an international AIDS conference in Australia were among the 298 people aboard the doomed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. The plane was shot down over war-torn Ukraine on July 17 in what's believed to have been an act of terrorism.

Passengers included Joep Lange, who headed the Department of Global Health at the University of Amsterdam. Also aboard the flight was World Health Organization spokesman Glenn Raymond Thomas, who lived in Geneva.

UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibe, who is already in Melbourne, Australia, for the week-long AIDS 2014 conference tweeted condolences.

The International AIDS Society posted a statement about the tragedy online.

"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," the statement read. "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."

It's unclear how many conference attendees were on board.

The Boeing 777 was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down in Ukraine about 25 miles from the Russian border.

In 1998, severl prominent officials of UNAIDS were aboard Swissair Flight 111 when it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean en route from New York City to Geneva.

Article provided in partnership with Wisconsin Gazette.