Crashed MH17 Plane Carried 108 AIDS Scientists and Researchers Heading to Melbourne

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By Reissa Su | July 20, 2014 9:01 AM EST

As news of the crashed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 spread like wildfire around the world, delegates to an international AIDS conference in Melbourne, Australia were believed to be among the passengers.

REUTERS
People light candles at the Dutch embassy for the victims of Malaysia Airlines MH17, which crashed in eastern Ukraine, in Kiev July 17, 2014. The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was brought down in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, killing all 295 people aboard and sharply raising the stakes in a conflict between Kiev and pro-Moscow rebels.

AIDS researchers, scientists and other professionals are headed to the 20th International Aids conference to be held between July 20 and 25 with former US president Bill Clinton as a featured guest.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that its employee, Glenn Thomas, was among the dead. Thomas, who was born in Britain, was based in Geneva and worked in media relations for the organisation. His next of kin had been contacted about the plight of his aircraft.

According to a WHO representative, they are still waiting for any confirmation if there were others who are part of the delegation going to Melbourne.

Reports said the International AIDS Society (IAS) has expressed its "sincere sadness" at the reported death of delegates. In a statement, the IAS is sending its condolences to the families of those who were on board MH17.

Other news agencies reported that a well-known AIDS researcher was among the passengers who died in the crash along with four Dutch researchers. These reports are yet to be confirmed.

Professor Francoise Barre-Sinoussi spoked in a pre-arranged event in Canberra and sent her sympathies to the families. She said the deaths of the delegates will be a "great loss for the HIV/AIDS community."

Barre-Sinoussi is the president of the IAS and serves as the international co-chair of the AIDS 2014. She received a Nobel prize in medicine in 2008 for her contribution to the discovery of HIV. She said she had the chance to work closely with the delegates.

The IAS has received reports that 108 of their colleagues in the field of AIDS research had died when the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot by a missile over the Ukrainian border.

The International AIDS Conference is held every two years in which scientists, researchers and workers gather to highlight developments and discuss relevant issues in the continuing fight against the disease.

Barre-Sinnoussi said the conference will push through despite the tragic news. She said the decision to go on will help continue their legacy.

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(Photo: REUTERS / Valentyn Ogirenko)
People light candles at the Dutch embassy for the victims of Malaysia Airlines MH17, which crashed in eastern Ukraine, in Kiev July 17, 2014. The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was brought down in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, killing all 295 people aboard and sharply raising the stakes in a conflict between Kiev and pro-Moscow rebels.
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