About 100 of the 298 people killed in the Malaysia Airlines crash were heading to Melbourne for a major AIDS conference, conference attendees have been told.
Delegates at a pre-conference in Sydney were told on Friday morning that about 100 medical researchers, health workers and activists were on the plane that went down near the Russia-Ukraine border, including former International AIDS Society president Joep Lange.
Health researcher Clive Aspin, who is attending the pre-conference, said the news had hit everyone hard, coming 16 years after AIDS research pioneer Jonathan Mann also died in a plane crash.
"Yet again, we're devastated by a similar tragedy," he said. "It's going to be a very sombre mood at the conference in Melbourne, especially for those of us who have been coming to these conferences for many years."
Organisers of the International AIDS Conference, due to begin in Melbourne on Sunday , have not released numbers, but did confirm expected attendees were among the dead.
WHO media adviser Glenn Thomnas.