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World Mourns Death of AIDS Guru, Activists in Ukraine Plane Disaster

Debris is pictured at the site of Thursday's Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash, near the village of Grabovo in the Donetsk region July 18, 2014. World leaders demanded an international investigation into the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Fligh

The International AIDS Society (IAS) on Saturday confirmed that at least six delegates traveling to the 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014) in Melbourne, Australia, including former IAS president Dr. Joep Lange, were on board the Malaysian Airlines flight MH 17 that crashed over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

"The extent of our loss is hard to comprehend or express," said president of the IAS, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi. "We grieve alongside all of those throughout the world who have lost friends and family in this senseless tragedy."

The IAS has paid tribute to former Dr. Lange who was travelling with his partner, Jacqueline van Tongeren, of the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development.

"Our colleagues were traveling because of their dedication to bringing an end to AIDS," said Owen Ryan, Executive Director of the International AIDS Society. "We will honour their commitment and keep them in our hearts as we begin our program on Sunday."

According to the conference conveners, the names of those confirmed at this time by friends and colleagues on board flight MH 17 are: Pym de Kaiser, lobbyist Aids Funds/STOP AIDS NOW!; Dr. Lange, Professor of Medicine, University of Amsterdam and Scientific Director, Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development; Lucie van Menes, Director of Support at The Female Health Company; Martine de Shutter, Program Manager Aids Funds/STOP AIDS NOW!; Glenn Thomas, World Health Organization and Jacqueline van Tangerine, Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development.

It says the conference will go ahead as planned and will include opportunities to reflect and remember those that died in the plane crash in Ukraine on Thursday. Reports say all 289 people on board died, including some who were going to the aids conference.

Former US President Bill Clinton, and artist and HIV/AIDS activist, Sir Bob Geldof, will be among the high-level speakers who will join thousands of the world’s top AIDS researchers, community leaders, people living with HIV and policy-makers at the conference.

The International AIDS Conference is the premier gathering for those working in the field of HIV, as well as policy makers, persons living with HIV and other individuals committed to ending the pandemic. It is a chance to assess the past and present fight against the pandemic, evaluate recent scientific developments and lessons learnt, and collectively chart a course forward.

The AIDS 2014 programmed will present new scientific knowledge and offer many opportunities for structured dialogue on the major issues facing the global response to HIV.

A variety of session types – from abstract-driven presentations to symposia, bridging and plenary sessions – will meet the needs of various participants. Other related activities, including the Global Village, satellite meetings, exhibitions and affiliated independent events, will contribute to an exceptional opportunity for professional development and networking.

Joshua Mavundu of the Batanai HIV and AIDS Service Organization says Zimbabwe should be commended for its spirited fight against new HIV infections.

Interview With Joshua Mavundu
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