REPORTS have emerged that among the passengers aboard the downed Malaysian Airlines MH17 flight in Ukraine were delegates, researchers and advocates bound for the AIDS 2014 conference in Melbourne.
Flight MH17 was shot down in separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine this morning, claiming the lives of 298 passengers and crew. Authorities have said 27 Australians were on board.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has confirmed that a number of people on board the flight were travelling to Melbourne for the conference, but an exact figure has not yet been confirmed at the time of writing.
A statement from the International AIDS Society (IAS), which runs the International AIDS Conferences, has also been issued.
“The International AIDS Society 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.”
Among the victims reportedly on board the MH17 flight were former IAS president Joep Lange and World Health Organization staffer Glenn Thomas.
“The IAS is hearing unconfirmed reports that some of our friends and colleagues were on board the flight and if that is the case this is a truly sad day,” the IAS statement said.
“The IAS has also heard reports that among the passengers was a former IAS president Joep Lange and if that is the case then the HIV/AIDS movement has truly lost a giant.”
UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibé also took to Twitter to express his condolences, and a one minute memorial silence was held at the International Indigenous Pre-Conference on HIV and AIDS in Sydney this morning.
There are reports that Joep Lange, a veteran #HIV/AIDS researcher from the Netherlands, was aboard MH17, en route to AIDS2014 in Melbourne.
— Martin Enserink (@martinenserink) July 17, 2014
— Michel Sidibé (@MichelSidibe) July 17, 2014
— Marie McInerney (@mariemcinerney) July 17, 2014
— Paul Kidd (@paulkidd) July 17, 2014