The Malaysian plane that was shot down over the Ukraine yesterday by a group that has yet to take responsibility contained over 100 of the world's leading AIDS researchers en route to a conference in Melbourne, Australia. Someone may literally have shot the cure for AIDS out of the sky. Great fucking job, humanity.
According to the Telegraph, delegates already gathered in Melbourne for pre-conference meetings were informed of the deaths of 108 of their colleagues after the plane was downed by a surface-to-air missile yesterday. Among the dead are World Health Organization advisor Glenn Thomas, as well as research giant and lauded humanitarian Dr. Joep Lange and his wife, Jacqueline van Tongeren, who has been researching AIDS for three decades. Dr. Lange has written more than 350 papers and spent his career fighting for access to low-cost AIDS treatment in Africa.
Of course, the tragedy of MH17 doesn't end there. This morning, ABCNews ran the heartbreaking story of Kaylene Mann, an Australian woman who lost her brother in the MH370 disappearance earlier this year. Yesterday, Mann found out that her stepdaughter Maree Rizk, returning from vacation with her husband, was aboard the latest Malaysian flight to face a tragic fate.
Overall, 189 Dutch, 44 Malaysians, 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians, 9 Brits, 4 Germans, 4 Belgians, 3 Filipinos, 1 Canadian, and 1 Kiwi lost their lives in the plane crash.
UPDATE: According to new reports from Australia, the number of AIDS researchers and workers aboard the flight was likely much smaller than 100. Here's the Wall Street Journal with more:
Some news reports estimated that the number of people on board the flight who were en route to the 2014 International Aids Conference in Melbourne, which is scheduled to begin this weekend, was as high as 100 or one third of the 298 people on board. But as of midnight Australia time on Friday, conference organizers said they had only been able to confirm seven names.
"We have been working hard to try and confirm how many people were on the flight. We've been speaking to a number of different authorities, and we think the actual number is much smaller," said Chris Beyrer, who will take over the presidency of the International AIDS Society at the end of the global conference next week.
Obviously, none of this minimizes the immense sense of tragedy and loss the families of victims and the international AIDS community must feel.
UPDATE 2: President Obama has confirmed that one American died in the crash.