AIDS official: 6 colleagues not 100 on #MH17

Ana P. Santos

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Australian newspapers on Friday, July 18, reported as many as 100 medical researchers, scientists, doctors and activists were on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 that went down

MELBOURNE, Australia – The International AIDS Society (IAS) said on Saturday, July 19, only 6 colleagues travelling to Melbourne to attend the a global AIDS summit were on the Malaysian plane that crashed over Ukraine.

The list of names of the confirmed dead released by the IAS included the organization’s former president, Joep Lange, a pioneer of cheap anti-retrovirals for the poor:

  • Joep Lange, HIV Netherlands Australia Research Collaboration (HIV-NAT) Co-director 
  • Pim de Kuijer, STOP AIDS NOW!
  • Lucie van Mens, AIDS Action Europe Director
  • Maria Adriana de Schutter, AIDS Action Europe
  • Glenn Thomas, World Health Organization
  • Jacqueline van Tongeren, Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development

Australian newspapers on Friday, July 18, said as many as 100 medical researchers, scientists, doctors and activists were on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 that went down en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, July 17.

“We are very confident that we have at least 6 colleagues confirmed in total. Might be a few more but not the number that has been announced,” Barré-Sinoussi clarified.

TRIBUTE. Flowers are laid at the front of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) to remember the lives of those lost onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 prior to the start of the AIDS Conference in Melbourne on July 19, 2014. Photo by AFP/Esther Lim

UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibe earlier tweeted that “many” delegates to the 20th International AIDS Conference were on board, reinforcing fears of a high fatality rate.

All 298 people on board died, with US officials blaming armed Ukrainian rebels for downing the jet with a missile.

Moment of deep sadness

“This is a moment of deep sadness for us. Our colleagues were travelling because of their dedication to bringing an end to AIDS,” said Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, president of the IAS.

“We are all devastated. They were colleagues and friends for a very long time. It is very hard for us,” Barré-Sinoussi added.  

Watch Sinoussi’s statement below.


MH17 flew out of Amsterdam and was headed to Kuala Lumpur where those attending  AIDS2014 were scheduled to get a connecting flight to Melbourne.

Dubbed AIDS 2014, the international HIV/AIDS conference is held biennially and attended by over 15,000 delegates.  It is the most attended HIV/AIDS conference in the world.

IAS, an association of HIV professionals from 196 countries working at all levels of the global response to AIDS, is the lead organizer of the event.

Tribute to lost colleagues

“We agreed that the colleagues that we lost are those who have dedicated their lives to fighting HIV/ AIDS and they would want this conference to go forward,” said Chris Beyrer, president elect of IAS.

Beyrer will assume presidency of IAS at the end of the conference on 25 July.

A tribute to the 6 victims who perished in the crash will be held on Sunday, July 20, when the conference officially opens. Condolence books will also be placed throughout the conference venue for those who wish to write their messages of sympathy and gratitude.

A candlelight vigil by the Association of Ukrainians in Victoria in the Melbourne City Square on Saturday afternoon, July 19. – With reports from Agence France-Presse/


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Ana P. Santos

Ana P. Santos is an investigative journalist who specializes in reporting on the intersections of gender, sexuality, and migrant worker rights.