Malaysian airlines tragedy

Along with everybody in the HIV community, we were shocked and saddened to hear the terrible news about friends and colleagues who have lost their lives in the tragic Malaysian Airlines crash yesterday.  

Many were en route to the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, which we are also taking part in, and their absence will be felt by many. This is a significant collective loss to science, to research, to public health and the struggle for key population rights. Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with their families and loved ones at this heart-breaking time.

We would like to pay tribute to two people in particular with whom we have worked closely with over the years. Here are a few words about their achievements. It doesn’t convey the deep human loss, but we hope it shows how they enriched the lives of many many people. We will miss their dedication to the HIV cause and their friendship.

Martine de Schutter was Programme Manager for Bridging the Gaps at Aids Fonds. We recently saw Martine on a sunny day in June in Amsterdam when she told us her hopes for what she could bring to the work Aids Fonds is doing with key population networks. Her own profile states: “Throughout my professional life I hope to contribute to making the world a better place to live, work and love.” Martine was a cultural anthropologist with special interests in gender, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and HIV. 

Pim de Kuijer was a parliamentary lobbyist with Stop AIDS Now!  We also saw Pim in June – at a SAN, Aids Fonds, Alliance meeting about a bid that we are putting together on advocacy and policy work to end AIDS. Pim appeared born to do that job. He always demonstrated such expertise, focus and precision in everything we saw him do. His profile reads: “Lobby is not only my hobby but also my daytime job” and he dedicated himself to it.  Pim had worked previously in UNDP, as an election observer, at the European Parliament and the Dutch Parliament. 

Martine and Pim are two of the many passengers on flight MH17 who were on their way to Melbourne to share their vast knowledge and experience to try and bring about an end to AIDS. This is a very profound human loss to us all. They spent their lives fighting for the lives of others and we pledge to continue their important work.