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Toronto Star - www.thestar.com

Top HIV researcher Joep Lange among 298 killed on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

Seven of the names of people on the flight verified as international AIDS conference delegates, although as many as 108 may have died in the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, according to Australian media reports

By: Peter Edwards
Star Reporter

Jul 18 2014 - A leading HIV researcher, a UN staffer and three Dutch activists were among the 298 people killed on Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, which was carrying a number of delegates headed to an international AIDS conference in Australia.

They were part of a global health network of 14,000 people headed to Melbourne this week for the 20th International AIDS Conference, which is scheduled to begin on Sunday. One of the victims was prominent Dutch scientist, Joep Lange , who was killed along with his partner, Jacqueline van Tongeren.

Although Australian news agencies had previously reported that as many as 108 delegates may have died in the crash - roughly a third of all passengers - conference organizers told the Washington Post on Friday they have only verified seven names so far.

U.S. President Barack Obama also paid tribute to the conference-bound passengers, noting there were "apparently" close to 100 on board.

"These were men and women who had dedicated their own lives to saving the lives of others, and they were taken from us in a senseless act of violence," Obama said in a news conference at the White House.

Joep Lange
A picture taken on July 14, 2003 in Paris, shows Dutchman and leading AIDS researcher Joep Lange during a conference on the matter. He was on the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 shot down over Ukraine on July 17, 2014.
JEAN AYISSI / AFP/GETTY IMAGES

"In this world today, we shouldn't forget that in the midst of conflict and killing, there are people like these, people who are focused on what can be built rather than what can be destroyed."

There were no survivors among passengers and crew on the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, which crashed in a rebel-held village in eastern Ukraine. The sole Canadian victim was Andrei Anghel , a 24-year-old medical student from Ajax.

The Dutch community of HIV/AIDS activists lost three of its members, according to various newspaper reports: Lucie van Mens, a director with the Female Health Company who works on HIV/AIDS prevention, Martine de Schutter , with an organization called Bridging the Gaps , which advocates for universal access to HIV prevention, and Pim de Kuijer , a lobbyist with Stop AIDS Now .

The death of Glenn Thomas, a 49-year-old communications staffer with the World Health Organization in Geneva, was also confirmed Friday morning by the UN health agency.

A former BBC reporter, Thomas joined the WHO more than a decade ago, initially posted to the tuberculosis department. In 2012, he joined a central communications team where one of his responsibilities was to track developments in HIV/AIDS research, said WHO spokesperson Gregory Hartl.

Thomas was turning 50 in September and had been planning his upcoming birthday celebration. He is survived by his twin sister, Tracey, and partner, Claudio.

"He was just a great person," said Hartl, who last saw his close colleague on Wednesday, shortly before Thomas left for his trip. "He was such a positive character, full of life and always looking forward to the next trip, the next adventure.

"It's really an immense loss for us."

###

Source: Toronto Star

"Reproduced with permission - Torstar Syndication Services"

Toronto Star
www.TheStar.com



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