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HIV/AIDS Activists Killed in Malaysia Airlines Plane Crash

Photo Credit:  Vox Efx via flickrA Malaysia Airlines flight crashed in the Ukraine on Thursday, carrying 298 passengers and crew, including an unconfirmed number of HIV/AIDS researchers and activists.

Flight MH17, which was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, is believed to have crashed due to a surface-to-air missile hitting the Boeing 777, according to intelligence authorities. The researchers were en route to the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia, that is set to begin Sunday.

“On board Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, there were apparently nearly 100 researchers and advocates traveling to an international conference in Australia dedicated to combating AIDS/HIV,” President Barack Obama said Friday morning. “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.”

The L.A Times reports that the dead included Joep Lange, a scientist best known for his work in the 1990s that discovered the impact of combination therapy, the use of multiple drugs in a cocktail to suppress the AIDS virus.

The airline has not released the names from the passenger and crew list. Currently, the Ukraine and Russia are blaming each other for the missile strike. The strike happened in the separatist-held territory in remote, eastern Ukraine.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said Friday at a meeting of the U.N. Security Council that “because of the technical complexity of the SA-11 [missile], it is unlikely that the separatists could effectively operate the system without assistance from knowledgeable personnel. Thus we cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel in operating the systems.”

The international community is pushing for the Ukraine and Russia to call a cease-fire so that an independent party can lead an investigation.

S.C. Rhyne is a blogger and novelist in New York City. Follow the author on Twitter @ReporterandGirl, and visit her website at

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