Melbourne lights up red to honor #MH17 victims

Ana P. Santos

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

A celebration of the AIDS 2014 conference has become a memorial to the 298 victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight 17 crash


MELBOURNE, Australia – Buildings bathed in red light were supposed to show support for the 20th International AIDS conference (AIDS2014) and its goal to end HIV and AIDS. Now, they also serve as a  tribute to those who perished in the Malaysian Airlines (MH17) plane that was shot down over Ukraine last Thursday, July 17. (READ: Kin of #MH17 Filipino victim: We’ve lost a part of us

About 50 heritage buildings and landmarks around the City of Melbourne have been lit up in red, the same color as the ribbon that has come to symbolize the HIV/AIDS movement.

Princess Bridge, which is brandished with “AIDS 2014” in large block letters, has become a shrine adorned with flowers and messages of sympathy and thanks. 

Friends, not just colleagues


News of MH17 shocked and devastated citizens of Melbourne and conference attendees. Six delegates to AIDS 2014 and 37 Australians were among the 298 passengers killed on MH17.


AIDS2014 brings together over 12,000 delegates and leading world experts in epidemiology, scientific research on HIV vaccination and cure, and HIV / AIDS advocacy.  Many have been at the forefront of the HIV/AIDS struggle since it started in the 80s and over the years of working together have become friends.


Last Friday, a fireworks display to kick off the conference was cancelled.


“The fireworks were themed to coincide with the opening of the conference however, as a mark of respect, we feel it is not appropriate to proceed,” read the announcement on the City of Melbourne Facebook page.


Today, at the formal opening of the conference, the mood was a somber one.


“I would love to be telling you that we were opening this conference in happier times. The extent of the loss of our colleagues and friends is still hard for me to comprehend or express,” said Françoise Barré – Sinoussi, president of the International AIDS Society (IAS) and International Conference Chair for AIDS 2014. 


Joep Lange, a former IAS president, was among those who died in the MH 17 crash.


A one minute global moment of remembrance was held to honor the 6 delegates. Eleven former, present and future presidents of the International AIDS Society together with representatives from those organizations who lost colleagues: the World Health Organization, AIDS Fonds, Stop AIDS Now, The Female Health Company and the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development and members of the Dutch research community gathered onstage for the moment of remembrance.



“We are no strangers to cruelty and loss. We know about suffering, irrationality and hatred,” said former justice of the High Court of Australia and a human rights activist Michael Kirby during his address at the conference opening.


“Irrational cruelty is, and will remain, our companion in this journey. It requires us to remember the past president, Joep Lange and his wife. To think of all the other delegates who expected to be sitting here with us in this hall at this occasion. Would that we could turn the clock back. Yet we cannot,” added Kirby.


“As you pass by these landmarks in our beloved city, I ask that you pause for a moment and think of all those we lost on MH17,” said Robert Doyle, lord mayor of Melbourne.




Also at the opening of the conference, a letter of condolence and support was read out by Lambert Grijins, the Dutch Ambassador for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and HIV/AIDS.


Condolence books will be circulated onsite at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Center for the duration of the conference.


On Tuesday, July 22, a Candlelight Vigil will be held in Federation Square, the city center.

See Melbourne’s buildings in red:



Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!
Face, Happy, Head


Ana P. Santos

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