100 Top HIV/AIDS Researchers Presumed Dead In Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 Crash

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 11.34.05 AMAlmost one third of the passengers aboard Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, the commercial airliner shot down by an antiaircraft missile over eastern Ukraine yesterday, were top AIDS researchers and activists en route to the 20th International AIDS Conference, due to begin Sunday in Melbourne, Australia.

Though initial sources haven’t confirmed who, exactly, fired the missile or where it even came from, it is assumed that the event was triggered by ongoing tension between Ukraine and Russia, and was not motivated by anything AIDS-related.

Among the 298 people presumed to be dead, about 100 were medical researchers, health workers, and activists working in the HIV/AIDS community. Included in the presumed death toll is Joep Lange, lead clinical researcher, former International AIDS Society president and founder of not-for-profit PharmAccess Foundation, an organization that aims to improve access to HIV/AIDS treatments in developing countries.

Joep Lange
Joep Lange

Organizers of the International AIDS Conference expressed grief in a statement to press yesterday.

“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 confirmed in the 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.”

Shocked by the sudden loss of great fixtures in the HIV/AIDS community, several other top researchers took to social media yesterday to express condolences:

Officials are still arguing about who shot down the plane and how best to deal with the wreckage site. Check out the most complete rundown of the ongoing situation over at Gawker.

Update, 4:07 pm: amfAR has released a statement regarding the death of Dr. Joep Lange. It reads in part:

Dr. Lange’s passing is a profound loss to the HIV/AIDS and global health community. All of us at amfAR extend our heartfelt condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of Dr. Lange and the other researchers and AIDS activists who lost their lives in the crash of flight MH17.

“Joep Lange was a towering presence in the fight against AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic and a wonderful friend, colleague, and teacher,” said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost. “He inspired legions of AIDS researchers, healthcare workers and activists and was an inspiration to me personally. He will be sorely missed.”

Get Queerty Daily

Subscribe to Queerty for a daily dose of #internationalaidsconference #joeplange #malaysianairlines stories and more


  • Charlie in Charge

    Such a horrific loss.

  • tomtomz

    Very sad… as the globals tensions continue to increase, this kind of stuff will continue…. we are encountering a kind of terrorism that doesn’t give a damn for human life, but how much mahim create and news coverage they can get.

    A side comment… the plane shoot down was a 777 not a 747-800….


  • TomMc

    What?! Really??!

    Don’t mean to be cynical, but there aren’t a lot of HIV/AIDS researchers on the planet.

    (In short, was it planned for that reason alone?)

    ‘Requiescat in pace’, and condolences to their friends and families.

  • Esoteric Man

    Definitely something not right here…. There were also a large number of scientist on the Malaysian Airlines flight 370…

  • Ihadtosayit

    curiouser and curiouser…damn shame…seriously…

  • jabuka

    Sometimes I’m astonished by how out of touch people in America are.

    They were not targeted for being AIDS activists, so that’s ok to you?

    Some people in some far away land shot the plane. In American mind it was practically just like an accident. People and conflicts you don’t understand are like storms and natural forces to you.
    It doesn’t matter that the plane was shot down by one of the most homophobic regimes in the world, one engaged in ideological homophobia, one which doesn’t know the value of human life and has just murdered dozens of gay people on that plane. Putin is now officially the butcher of gay people and he needs to be stopped.

    This was not an accident because no one is going to be safe anymore. I live in Europe and I don’t want to live in fear that my plane will be shot down by the Russian Christian terrorists.

  • Bryguyf69

    I’ve never personally met Joep but we’ve crossed paths at many conferences and he’s an impressive man. I am similarly impressed with every Dutch researcher I’ve ever met. All scientists are pretty non-judgmental since we rely on facts and generally shun religion. This is even truer among HIV researchers. As an HIV and sexuality researcher in NYC, I’m used to progressive attitudes. But even I was amazed upon meeting the Dutch. It was truly a non-issue among the gay and straight attendees. In fact, I often didn’t know who was gay or straight. Gays from other countries often identified themselves by wearing a gay t-shirt, rainbow pin, etc. My Dutch colleagues just blended into the crowd. Yet they weren’t shy about being gay either. Men introduced their husbands and boyfriends just as casually as heterosexuals, and I saw a few lip–to-lip greetings between gay and straight men. May these HIV researchers, especially the Dutch, rest in peace.

  • Matthew Tharrett

    @jabuka: The hell?

    Who said it was an “accident?” And more importantly, who said it was “ok because it was an accident?”

  • Stevenw

    Another good reason to loathe that son of a b*tch Putin.

  • Greg Garavani

    This is so horrific, I saw photos of the bodies on the groud and it is unbelievable. Clearly this was an opportunity for the separatists to show their hate towards many, losing these researchers/scientists was just 2 birds 1 stone for them. Extremely upsetting that anyone can do this, no longer proud of my countries Ukraine/Russia. These people are all fucked up in the heads more than anyone else on this planet.

  • Billy Budd

    The horror. The horror in the world.

    Don’t forget that Israel has just killed over 200 palestinians too.

  • jwrappaport

    @Stache99: Glad I’m not the only plane buff here!

  • Mikah

    So sad,and unfortunate.

  • blackberry finn

    @jabuka: Jabuka: Small consolation, but you needn’t live in fear because you’re probably not important enough to be targeted for anything except a monthly utility bill. Your comment is extremely patronizing of Americans and this Yankee will suggest to your over-enlarged ego that there is no such thing as “an American mind”, and if there was, you surely would not be privy to it. To quote my English cousin. sod off.

  • ucak bileti

    Airplane is uçak biletiin Turkish. We are so sad. This issue is unacceptable.

  • Blackceo

    This is exactly why I knew I had to go to this year’s World Cup. It is in Russia in 2018 and there is no way in hell I’m going there for that. I think FIFA should strip Russia as hosts to be honest, and I felt thay way long before this incident. Then the damn World Cup is in Qatar. Why would FIFA allow back to back hosts in such horrible places?

  • Mark

    As a delegate covering the conference in Melbourne right now, I can’t properly explain the level of shock and grief felt by my fellow delegates. At a pre-conference event this morning, a plenary speaker was absent because she had perished in the crash. The loss is felt very keenly and is personal among a close knit group of worldwide advocates.

    But we have dealt with grief and injustice for a very long time, and we will respond as well always have — by honoring those we have lost by continuing the fight against HIV.

  • michael mellor

    The science of AIDS has been corrupted by activism. I was shocked to read that some of the scientists attending the Melbourne conference were also activists. What a disgrace!!

    The AIDS industry is a gravy train.

    • Stache99

      @michael mellor: Yeah, activists as in getting more people in treatment and caring for people on a human level. Terrible isn’t?

  • Pistolo

    @Mark: HIV/AIDS leaves in it’s wake so much sadness, contention, and loss, to have that further impacted by such a level of senseless violence is like a sudden death at a funeral. Sometimes it just seems as though the fight against HIV/AIDS has the fate battling it at every stop, always making steps forward only to be slung back. The kind of person willing to go on in spite of all these setbacks (and you bet your bottom dollar there’s been plenty before this one) is a hero. Those people were heroes and those who can continue on after this are just as heroic.

    I’m really very upset by all this.

  • vive

    @Billy Budd, yes, and with American-supplied weapons too. The selective blindness is interesting.

  • Ben Dover

    @Pistolo: Hey “jason,” keep it up.

    Remember, the ONE thing that always gets you kicked off here is when you deny that HIV is the cause of AIDS.

    I know you like to pretend it’s caused by poppers or whatever.

    But please, keep it up – they will ban you. Again!

  • Ben Dover

    @Pistolo: Sorry, “pistolo,” that was directed at “michael mellor” aka jason etc.

  • Shirtless Climber

    @Stevenw: Do not condemn prematurely

    Ucrainian (state) ATC ordered MH17 to change the route to cross blocked airspace. One reason could be that military transport wanted to hide.

  • phlmeow

    We all know how much Russian president Putin and his followers hate gays … I can’t help but feel as if they took this opportunity to get rid of such valued aids researchers and activist …. They obviously don’t value life, just take a look at what’s been happening to the LGBT community in Russia …. Just saying

  • mezzacanadese

    It is a terrible tragedy, and what the insurgents did afterwards was a disgrace.

Comments are closed.