World-renowned Aids researchers and activists heading to an international conference in Australia were on board the downed Malaysian jet, it has emerged. And news of their deaths has sparked an outpouring of grief across the global scientific community.
The Australian newspaper reports that up to 108 researchers were aboard the flight heading for the conference.
The World Health Organisation’s Geneva-based spokesman Glenn Thomas – reportedly British – who was travelling to the conference, was also among the dead, said Christian Lindmeier, spokesman for WHO’s Western Pacific region. Mr Lindmeier said:
“Everybody’s devastated. It’s a real blow.
A number of people” on board the Boeing 777 were on their way to the southern Australian city of Melbourne to attend the 20th International Aids Conference, which starts on Sunday.
At least 27 Australians were confirmed to be on board the plane, which was scheduled to continue flying to the western Australian city of Perth after stopping in Kuala Lumpur.
Among the passengers was former president of the International Aids Society Joep Lange, a well-known HIV researcher from the Netherlands. Mr Lange had been working on HIV since the earliest years of the epidemic, participating in clinical trials and research across the world.
The International Aids Society issued a statement expressing its grief over the news that several of its colleagues and friends were on board.
“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 group said
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