Six international AIDS specialists died in the MH17 plane crash on July 17. During the opening session of the 20th International AIDS Conference held in Melbourne on July 20, a one-minute of remembrance was observed.
Former, present and future presidents of the International AIDS Society came on stage with representatives belonging to the organisations to which the delegates belonged to. The six delegates were part of the World Health Organisation, AIDS Fonds, Stop AIDS Now, the Female Health Company, the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development and members of the Dutch HIV research community.
The conference had a total of about 12,000 delegated from 200 countries. In memory of the AIDS experts, many delegates had red ribbons and wrote in condolence books present at the venue.
Quotes by people close to the deceased
Michael Sidibe, UNAIDS executive director who lost his mentor, the former president of International AIDS Society, Jep Lang said, "The world had suffered a great loss of genius and talent. We lost one of the best researchers in the scientific community and also our activists. People who were just helping to give a face to HIV/AIDS. It is a tragedy for us. It is very difficult because Joep was a mentor for me and I think he will always be remembered for his spirit and his legacy."
Michael Kirby, a retired Australian judge and HIV campaigner noted, "Everybody wants to draw from this catastrophe a re-commitment to the obligation to talk about the millions of people who are infected and the urgent obligation to get them on testing, to get them on retroviral drugs, and to remove the impediments of law that make that difficult."
Professor Robin Weiss, professor of oncology at University College London said, "Not since the loss of Jonathan Mann and his wife on the sabotaged Swiss Air flight to Geneva 17 years ago has the HIV/Aids research community suffered such a great loss."
Shaun Mellors, the associate director for Africa at the International HIV/Aids Alliance, explained, "This is a profound collective loss to science, to research, to medicine and to public health. They spent their lives fighting for the lives of others and we pledge to continue their important work."