July 2014

AIDS Community Mourns Those Aboard Flight MH17

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The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) expresses deep sadness regarding the tragedy of downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 and the loss of all those aboard. While full details remain unconfirmed, it is believed that many passengers were en route to the 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014), scheduled to take place in Melbourne, Australia.

“These were men and women who had dedicated their own lives to saving the lives of others and they were taken from us in a senseless act of violence,” said President Obama during a speech about the downed airliner.

Joep Lange, M.D., former president of the International AIDS Society (IAS), is thought to be among the many members of the HIV/AIDS community reported to have been on board Flight MH17.

Dr. Lange was a prominent researcher at the University of Amsterdam. He had been working  in the HIV/AIDS field since 1983, leading many important trials on the use of antiretroviral therapy and the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

“The untimely loss of Dr. Joep Lange is a tragedy for the entire HIV/AIDS community, especially for those of us working toward ending AIDS in children,” said Laura Guay, M.D., vice president of research at EGPAF. “His broad research expertise and extraordinary contributions to the field included some of the earliest studies on prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission in Africa. He was a passionate and tireless advocate for global access to prevention, care, and treatment services, particularly for women and children.”

Other Dutch AIDS researchers were also reported to have been on the plane en route to the conference. The World Health Organization confirmed that a longtime spokesman, Glenn Thomas, was also on the flight.

IAS has announced that the conference in Melbourne will move forward as scheduled.

“In recognition of our colleagues' dedication to the fight against HIV/AIDS, the conference will go ahead as planned and will include opportunities to reflect and remember those we have lost,” said IAS in an official statement.

“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."

The global HIV/AIDS community is bonded by the common purpose to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and today we are also joined in sorrow as we mourn the loss of many great advocates, researchers, and friends aboard flight MH17. In their honor, EGPAF will continue its work until no child has AIDS.