The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is holding a memorial today to honor the contingent of HIV researchers who were among the 298 people who perished when a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down over eastern Ukraine.
The foundation announced that it would create a memorial space in its building at 1811 N. Western Ave. in Hollywood, where the public was invited to bring flowers and other remembrances to honor the as many as 100 passengers on Flight 17 who were traveling to Melbourne, Australia, for the 20th International AIDS conference.
"To have so many people who have crossed the globe devoting their lives to helping humanity cut down in this fashion is an unspeakable tragedy," Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said in a statement. "Our heart breaks for their families and loved ones."
Organizers said the event, a leading forum for researchers to meet and discuss their work, would go on.
"In recognition of our colleagues' dedication to the fight against HIV/AIDS, the conference will go ahead as planned and will include opportunities to reflect and remember those we have lost," they said in a statement.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which had left Amsterdam, ended in a field Thursday near Ukraine's eastern border with Russia. In a preliminary assessment, U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that a missile fired from territory controlled by pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine brought down the passenger jet.
The dead were from at least 10 countries with the majority, 189, Dutch.
Among those lost was prominent researcher Joep Lange, a former president of the International AIDS Society, and his colleague, Jacqueline van Tongeren, according to the Academic Medical Center hospital in Amsterdam, where the pair worked.
A World Health Organization spokesman traveling to the conference was also killed.
"This is a moment for quiet reflection on the meaning of our lives and that of our loved ones. Now is also a time to renew our commitment to humanity," Weinstein said in his statement. "We honor the dead best by continuing to fight for the living and truly appreciating one another."