Saturday, July 19, 2014

International AIDS Conference Impacted by Malaysian Airline Tragedy

IAC: Tragedy, Low Attendance Won't Stop Meeting

Published: Jul 18, 2014   By Michael Smith, North American Correspondent, MedPage Today

The 2014 International The The AIDS Conference will go on as planned despite the deaths of dozens of delegates aboard the airliner said to ave been shot down over eastern Ukraine.
Conference organizers were stunned by reports that dozens of delegates were aboard a Malaysia Airlines jet from Amsterdam that exploded over disputed territory in eastern Ukraine, reportedly after being struck by a surface-to-air missile.
The International AIDS Society, the meeting sponsor, said in a statement late Thursday (U.S. time) that if the reports are accurate, "this is a truly sad day." News reports said that former society president Joep Lange, MD, was among those on the doomed airliner. Professor Lange’s colleagues said that he was one of those who had 'changed the course of humanity'.
"If that is the case, then the HIV/AIDS movement has truly lost a giant," the society statement said. A later statement confirmed that the meeting would not be canceled.
The airline tragedy recalled the 1998 crash that took the life of prominent AIDS researcher Jonathan Mann.
He was aboard Swissair 111, which plunged into Canadian waters off Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia on Sept. 2, 1998 – scarcely 6 weeks after another International AIDS Society meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.
The AIDS conference commemorates Mann every 2 years in its opening ceremony, when a prominent researcher or activist gives a special lecture named for him. This year, the Jonathan Mann memorial lecture, to be delivered by Michael Kirby, a retired Australian judge, is on HIV and the law.
A minutes silence and a candlelight vigil has been held in Melbourne in honour of the world's leading experts in the battle against HIV who were killed while travelling on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 en route to an AIDS conference in the city.
The tragic loss of researchers who died should be used to push the life-saving agenda of the meeting, the UN AIDS chief  Mr Michel Sidibe urged as he spoke outside Melbourne Arts Centre Hamer Hall on Friday night.

A special tribute to the former president of the International AIDS Society (IAS) and ‘giant’ of HIV research, Joep Lange, was also given by Mr Sidibe.

The 20th International AIDS Conference was nearly cancelled after it emerged many of the 298 who died when Flight MH17 crashed in Ukraine were delegates with their family members.

Organisers of AIDS2014 still don't know exactly how many of the 12,000 researchers coming to Melbourne for the five-day conference were on board MH17.


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