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Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 death toll includes about 100 heading to AIDS conference

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed Thursday after being shot down by an anti-aircraft weapon near the Russian-Ukrainian border, killing all 298 on board.
By Aileen Graef   |   July 18, 2014 at 1:44 PM   |   Comments

MELBOURNE, July 18 (UPI) -- Approximately 100 of the 298 people killed in the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash were traveling to the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne.

Members who were planning to attend the conference, which is set to take place this weekend, released a statement following the tragedy.

"A number of colleagues and friends en route to attend the 20th International AIDS Conference taking place in Melbourne, Australia, were on board the Malaysia Airlines MH17 flight that has crashed over Ukraine," Michael Kessler of the International AIDS Society (IAS) said in the statement. "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 World Health Organization (WHO) also released a statement Friday acknowledging the death of one of its media specialists.

"It is with deep sadness that we have to inform you that WHO lost one of our colleagues on the Malaysian Airlines crash yesterday. Glenn Thomas from the department of communications was travelling to the International AIDS Conference in Australia," the statement read.

In addition to Thomas, Dr. Joep Lange, who had been researching HIV for 30 years, also died in the crash. Lange was the former president of the IAS and a leader in research for anti-retroviral therapy trials and a pioneer in preventing mother-to-child transmission.

"The IAS is hearing unconfirmed reports that some of our friends and colleagues were on board the flight and if that is the case this is a truly sad day," said Chris Beyrer, the president-elect of the International AIDS Society. "The IAS has also heard reports that among the passengers was a former IAS president Joep Lange and if that is the case then the HIV/AIDS movement has truly lost a giant."

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