As we mourn the senseless loss of the innocent lives taken, in addition, the medical community appears to have also suffered an unexpected blow. When my colleague wrote on his Facebook status that many doctors were on the ill fated MH17 plane, I did not realise the gravity of the loss at first. Shortly after that, news started to trickle in revealing that many of the passengers on board of that plane were on the way to the ongoing 20th International AIDS Conference 2014 in Melbourne. I was so shocked. So many people I knew and admired their work were on that plane. In fact, my own professor a.k.a. my boss just left for Australia as I type this today while a few of my colleagues were already there earlier this week to attend the satellite symposiums held in conjuction with the main conference.
It is estimated that as many as 108 renowned HIV scientists, activists and researchers including the father of AIDS research, Joep Lange were on that plane. Many of them were respected pioneers in the field as we are closing in the possible vaccine or even cure for HIV. This collective loss is heavily felt in the medical community especially in the field of HIV medicine.
One may wonder would this tragic loss negatively impact the progress we had so far in battling the HIV epidemic. We believe that it would neither hinder nor slow down our efforts to find the elusive cure for HIV. In fact, the best way to immortalise the late Prof Joep Lange’s and his fellow colleagues’ legacy is to continue their work and dedicate our future success in their memories.
On behalf of MIMPA and The Malaysian Medical Gazette, we are united in grief as we join the international medical community offering our condolences to all the families whose loved ones were on board of the #MH17. Let it be known that they will continue to live on in our hearts and remembered in our prayers.
Dr Nur Hidayati is an Infectious Disease Registrar currently working in a hospital in Kuala Lumpur.
This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Medical Gazette.