As many as 108 of the 298 people killed on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 were researchers, activists, and health workers bound for a major AIDS conference in Melbourne, delegates have been told. Among them was Dutch researcher Joep Lange, one of the world's top HIV experts. He had been researching the disease for more than 30 years; one conference delegate tells the Australian he was "the father of AIDS research in the developing world." Another expert tells the Guardian that "there were some serious HIV leaders on that plane" and that the crash "will have ramifications globally" on research.
At the 20th International AIDS Conference, "it's going to be a very somber week," American HIV activist Sean Strub says. "The struggle with the epidemic is bigger than any one individual, but the collective loss of so many important people is one that is emotionally devastating." The premier of the state of Victoria says the doomed plane flying from Amsterdam was supposed to connect with a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. "The shooting down of a passenger aircraft full of innocent civilians is an unspeakable act that will forever leave a dark stain on our history," he says. The Telegraph reports that out of the passengers and crew whose nationalities have been verified, there were 154 Dutch citizens, 27 Australians, 23 Malaysians, 11 Indonesians, six British citizens, four Belgians, four Germans, three Filipinos, and one Canadian.