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Nearly 100 AIDS Researchers Perished In Malaysia Airplane Shoot-Down

About one-third of the 298 passengers aboard Malaysia Airplane flightt MH17 consisted of travelers on their way to Melbourne, Australia for a global AIDS Conference.

Their flight was intended to connect with another Malaysian airplane and reach Melbourne Friday night, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The people aboard the flight included researchers, activists and health workers, many of whom had been studying HIV and AIDS for decades. One of the men on the flight was Joep Lange, former International AIDS Society president. He was a world-renowned AIDS researcher.

“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,” said Chris Beyrer, president-elect of the International AIDS Society. He is currently on his way to the convention.

“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,” said Michael Kessler, member of the International AIDS Society (IAS).

Associate Professor Brian Owler told TIME that “The amount of knowledge that these people who died on the plane were carrying with them and the experiences they had developed will have a devastating impact on HIV research. … The amount of time it takes to get to a stage where you can come up with those ideas cannot be replaced in a short amount of time. So it does set back work for a cure and strategic prevention of HIV/AIDS very significantly.”

He is federal president of the Australian Medical Association.

Victorian Premier Denis Napthine, part of the Australian Parliament of Victoria, has offered to work with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in providing assistance to delegates of the AIDS conference who need it.