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Just over four years ago, on July 17, 2014, six delegates died on the way to the International AIDS Conference on the launch of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine.
The delegates were among the 298 people killed just hours after their departure in Amsterdam.
International research has shown that the rocket that shot down the jet is from the Russian military, which has denied involvement.
This year, thousands of public health and global development experts are gathering for the International AIDS Conference, which starts on Monday.
"I am confident that people will still remember them," said Owen Ryan, the outgoing Executive Director of the International AIDS Society, about his colleagues in the AIDS Prevention and Activism Campaign that day. Community has lost.
Ryan told NPR's Korma Coleman that he wanted their legacy to draw attention to AIDS as a continuing crisis, "and we know it's important that this fight continues."
Over 37 million people around the world were living with HIV / AIDS in 2017, according to the World Health Organization. The group says that 940,000 people died of HIV-related illnesses last year.
On the eve of the 22nd International AIDS Conference, Ryan spoke with NPR about the current state of the AIDS crisis around the world and why it is important to continue funding AIDS prevention.
Highlights in Interview
On Joep Lange, a former president of the International AIDS Society, who died at MH17
It's hard to describe how Joep's HIV movement has really changed. However, a very long way was to alert the world to the need for antiretroviral treatment in Africa. He was one of the earliest researchers, scientists and activists to force donor governments to address the problems in Africa – and remove the barriers that keep people from life-saving treatments.
He is to a great extent thankful for the many millions of people being treated today.
What can slow the rate of current AIDS infections
Honestly, what needs to be done That is the sense of complacency that has set in many of us. There is really this feeling in many parts of the world that AIDS is over and that is really far from the truth.
It's one of the reasons why we miss Joep the most – he had an incredible ability to speak the truth to power, regardless of who he speaks to. He just knew how to go straight to them and said, "What you believe is not true and we need more money for it."
Developing Drugs for AIDS
Firstly, for the first time, we are conducting a large-scale clinical trial for vaccines in South Africa. And South Africa is one of those countries where we can do it all over the world if we get it right.
But until we get more people treated in the short term, we'll keep trying. So we hope that we can do both things at the same time: treating people and then longer-term prevention options.
In certain regions where the AIDS crisis is growing
Eastern Europe and Central Asia are a major focus of this conference. You have seen that over time, as the economy has improved, the donors have run away. And with them the political will left.
So in many places, including Russia, you've seen the epidemic come back by force. And you see people in urban centers and rural areas who are now completely spared from the treatment and this massive explosion of new infections, and I think people just do not realize it.
Preventing Future Epidemics
We must always be aware and it is precisely the moment when you take your finger off the pulse of epidemiology that you begin to see problems occur. We need to finance the systems that keep us alert to the next big disease, because we know it's going to happen.
We saw this with Ebola, we've seen this in the past with SARS. We have to keep things like the CDC and the WHO – we have to keep them alive and strong and pay attention to all of that.