Shepparton's Damien Stevens says the 20th International AIDS Conference has been a sombre event due to the death of several HIV and AIDS experts who were onboard flight MH17.ESTELLE GRIEPINK July 22, 2014 3:06am
A Shepparton delegate to the 20th International AIDS Conference says the loss of six international experts in the MH17 plane disaster has been felt at the Melbourne event.
The delegates, including noted researched Joep Lange, were among 298 people killed when the Malaysia Airlines flight was shot down over Ukraine on Thursday.
UnitingCare Cutting Edge diversity project officer Damien Stevens said several murals, candles and flowers had been placed at the conference to pay tribute to the dead.
‘‘It began with a very sombre mood and there were people crying and expressing their grief at the loss of many great researchers,’’ Mr Stevens said.
‘‘Outside the Arts Centre there is a huge red mural put up by YEAH! — Youth Empowerment against HIV/AIDS — that says AIDS 2014 and it has been covered with flowers and candles and lovely messages.’’
Mr Stevens said the thousands of delegates were still determined to make the most of the conference despite the difficult circumstances.
‘‘It hasn’t dampened the focus on why we’re here, there is a strong sense of community and a real focus on the prevention of HIV and AIDS,’’ he said.
Mr Stevens said the sexual health community would sadly miss each of the delegates killed in the MH17 tragedy.
He said he hoped their research would continue to help prevent HIV and AIDS.
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