Researchers and activists heading to an AIDS conference in Australia were on the Malaysian jetliner shot down over Ukraine, news that sparked an outpouring of grief across the scientific community as well as in North Texas.
Among the passengers were former president of the International AIDS Society Joep Lange, a well-known researcher from the Netherlands, and World Health Organization spokesman Glenn Thomas, based in Geneva.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, crashed Thursday with 298 people on board. American intelligence authorities believe a surface-to-air missile brought down the aircraft, but it was not yet clear who fired it.
A precise number of passengers who were bound for the conference could not immediately be determined. The 20th International AIDS conference starts Sunday in the Victoria state capital of Melbourne.
North Texans are also expressing grief over the news.
“When I first heard it there was a pit in my stomach. I was like ‘oh my God there are all these great researchers that lost their lives’,” said Dr. Mamta Jain, Medical Director of HIV Research at UT Southwestern.
Dr. Jain has been to the International Aids Conference in the past.
“They are going to one of the most important conferences, and I am sure their research was in very important areas like HIV cure and other things related to HIV treatment,” added Dr. Jain