With Malaysia Airlines Crash, A Loss For AIDS Research

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A number of scientists and others members of the AIDS research community died in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine. NPR's Kelly McEvers speaks with journalist and editor in chief of HIV Plus magazine Diane Anderson-Minshall about the loss.


Malaysia Airlines has released the manifest of passengers who were on that plane that crashed in Eastern Ukraine. We know that many of them were bound for the world's largest AIDS conference in Australia. At the opening of the conference yesterday there was a moment of silence to remember those who had died. Diane Anderson-Minshall is the editor-in-chief of HIV Plus Magazine and asked her about one of the most prominent AIDS researchers who was killed, Dutch scientist Joep Lange.

>>ANDERSON-MINSHALL: He's an inspiration to legions in the HIV community and so his is a great loss. One of the most important things that he did was he was a very early proponent of a combination antiretroviral medication which we now know is really the key to keeping HIV, you know, undetectable and manageable among people and so he is one of those people - probably like the top five researchers in the world - and he's responsible really for bringing down the number of HIV-infected babies in the world.

MCEVERS: I understand you have been to the conference before yourself. Tell us what goes on there.

>>ANDERSON-MINSHALL: Sure. The International AIDS Conference - this is the 20th year - this is the - really the world's largest conference on HIV and AIDS and it's a combination of activists and advocates and researchers and one of the main things that happens there is people are presenting groundbreaking research and sharing that information with other scientists and healthcare workers and I think that, you know, this is sort of the great loss. Everyone wants to know did the cure for AIDS die on the plane.

MCEVERS: This is a community that deals with death - that has dealt with death in its own unique way but it hasn't happened like this. How are people coping?

>>ANDERSON-MINSHALL: Absolutely, I mean I think anybody who has been in this fight - we've lost, you know, innumerable friends and colleagues over the 30 years but it's rarely instantaneous like this, you know. It's something we see coming. I think that people who are at the conference right now - and again, as it was a mad scene at the conference with people landing and then furiously texting all their friends to find out who might have been on that flight, you know. That was a very- we were getting dispatches from our colleagues there and so I think that, you know, for everybody there's a bit of mourning that has to happen and there's definitely a bit of grief but I think that part of being in, you know, the HIV community is that we know to march on - we need to march on. We know we need to honor the work that these people are doing. We need to find out who's going to carry on their work and honor their short lives and do what we've always done which is sort of to trudge on in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

MCEVERS: Diane Anderson-Minshall is a journalist and editor-in-chief of "HIV Plus Magazine" and also an editor at large at The Advocate. Thank you so much.

>>ANDERSON-MINSHALL: Oh, thanks for having me.

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