Via The Guardian: Aids conference begins in Melbourne with gaping hole in delegates' hearts. Excerpt:
As hundreds of delegates filed into the Melbourne Convention Centre on Sunday ahead of the official opening of the largest Aids conference in the world, some of the most brilliant minds in the HIV field were missing.
Red HIV ribbons adorned the doors of buildings throughout the precinct and people wore them on their shirts, symbols of the conference taking place but also a sign of remembrance for the six researchers and advocates bound for the conference who were killed on Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.
The International Aids Society confirmed on Saturday night the names of those killed when their plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine: the former society president and professor of medicine, Joep Lange; his partner and Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development public health official, Jacqueline van Tongeren; Aids lobbyists, Pim de Kuijer and Martine de Schutter; director of support at the Female Health Company, Lucie van Mens; and World Health Organisation media coordinator, Glenn Thomas.
A number of high profile HIV researchers, including conference co-chair and infectious diseases physician, Professor Sharon Lewin, will pay their respects at the opening ceremony on Sunday night to those killed. There will be one minute’s silence.
As delegates arrived, Lewin said all those killed were due to play a key role in the conference, whether through presenting research or sharing their stories.
“Those on MH17 all worked so hard in the science and community response to HIV – losing all six of them is a major loss,” Lewin said.
Lange, the scientific director of the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development, was much beloved by the HIV research community in Australia. He had worked closely with the Kirby Institute for infection and immunity at the University of NSW.
“Lange’s greatest vision was how to get antiretroviral therapy to low-income countries,” Lewin said. “In 2000, we thought that was impossible, and by 2013 we have 13 million people with HIV on treatment,” Lewin said.
“It was through Lange’s vision and determination, along with that of many others, that this became possible.
“Lange would have spoken about how antiretrovirals are only part of the work in combating HIV, and how that alone is not enough, and he would have been talking about global health, tuberculosis co-infections, and planning new studies with other people present at the conference because this is where a lot of new work starts.”