HIV/AIDS Experts Killed in Malaysia Airlines Crash

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shot down over Ukraine included passengers traveling to International AIDS Conference

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Details of the passengers on the Malaysian Airlines plane shot down over Ukraine this week are starting to emerge. Among the lives lost were leading HIV/AIDS researchers on their way to the International AIDS Conference in Australia.

While all of the names have yet to be released, reports have confirmed that Dr. Joep Lange, a leading HIV/AIDS researcher, was one of the victims.

James Friedman, executive director of the American Academy of HIV Medicine, issued a statement addressing the loss of these distinguished members of the HIV/AIDS research community.

"It is due to their continued dedication to HIV/AIDS patients worldwide that they were making this journey," Friedman wrote. "Not only did this tragedy take the lives of these researchers, but also robbed the world of their future discoveries and contributions to the HIV/AIDS patients they served."

According to reports from US officials, evidence suggests that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. However, who fired the missile and for what reason remain unclear.

Nearly 300 people were killed in the missile attack. Of those, about 100 were on their way to the AIDS conference.

"The HIV/AIDS community mourns the loss of these talented and compassionate researchers and HIV care providers," Friedman wrote. "Our condolences to the families of all those affected by the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 tragedy."

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is an infection that can be spread through unprotected sex, shared intravenous needle use, contact with infected blood or from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. HIV weakens the immune system, potentially leading to AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome).

Over 1.1 million people in the US are living with HIV infection. Nearly one in six of those people (15.8 percent) do not know they have the infection.

When the HIV/AIDS epidemic began in the 1980s, people knew little to nothing about the disease. In those early years, AIDS was considered a death sentence. Since then, research discoveries have led to a better understanding of HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment.

Researchers even seem to be getting closer to the development of a vaccine. However, it will likely take some time before something resembling a vaccine will be available to the public.

Review Date: 
July 18, 2014
Last Updated:
July 21, 2014