Now Reading
Up to 100 HIV researchers dead in Malaysian Airlines flight shot down over Ukraine

Up to 100 HIV researchers dead in Malaysian Airlines flight shot down over Ukraine

The global HIV research community is in mourning after it was revealed that many of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, shot down over the Ukraine, may have been traveling to attend the 2014 International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia.

‘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,’ conference organizers wrote in a public statement earlier today.

‘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.’

A list of the passengers has not yet been made public but it is understood that past president of the International AIDS Society Joep Lange is among the dead, as was World Health Organization media adviser Glenn Thomas.

Also killed are believed to be Pim de Kuijer and Martine de Schutter, who worked for organizations associated with the AIDS Fonds foundation.

It is believed that as many as 100 of the 298 passengers on the flight were traveling to the conference, having boarded in Amsterdam to fly to Kuala Lumpur to join another flight to Melbourne.

The plane is claimed to have been shot down by ethnic Russian separatists in the east of Ukraine. The separatists have responded with counter claims suggesting it was the Ukrainian forces.

US President Barack Obama has called for a cease fire between all parties while the crash is investigated.

‘It is critical that there be a full, credible, and unimpeded international investigation as quickly as possible. We urge all concerned – Russia, the pro-Russian separatists, and Ukraine – to support an immediate ceasefire in order to ensure safe and unfettered access to the crash site for international investigators and in order to facilitate the recovery of remains,’ a statement released by the White House press office reads.

‘The role of international organizations – such as the United Nations and the OSCE in Ukraine – may be particularly relevant for this effort, and we will be in touch with affected nations and our partners in these organizations in the coming hours and days to determine the best path forward.

‘In the meantime, it is vital that no evidence be tampered with in any way and that all potential evidence and remains at the crash site are undisturbed. The United States remains prepared to contribute immediate assistance to any international investigation, including through resources provided by the NTSB and the FBI.

‘While we do not yet have all the facts, we do know that this incident occurred in the context of a crisis in Ukraine that is fueled by Russian support for the separatists, including through arms, materiel, and training.

‘This incident only highlights the urgency with which we continue to urge Russia to immediately take concrete steps to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine and to support a sustainable ceasefire and path toward peace that the Ukrainian government has consistently put forward.’

UPDATE: While the total death toll from the crash sadly remains at 298, it is now being claimed that far fewer of them were traveling to the Melbourne conference. The organizers say they had only been able to confirm seven names by midnight on Friday in Australia. Full information on the crash and victims is yet to emerge.