Bill Clinton’s speech to the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne yesterday was disrupted by protesters.

Representing his Clinton Foundation charity, the former US President paid tribute in his speech to the HIV activists who lost their lives onboard flight MH17, when it was shot down over Ukraine.

He had said: “[Dr Joep Lange] and the five other colleagues we lost lived lives which are overpowering in their contribution to a shared future.

“Those people that we lost on that plane gave their entire lives to the proposition that our common humanity matters a hell of a lot more than our differences.”

However, the speech was disrupted by protesters who want a tax on financial transactions to fund AIDS research, who shouted the former President down, holding placards reading “End AIDS with the Robin Hood tax”.

After allowing the group to protest for several minutes, Clinton said to the crowd: “Have you got the message? Give them a hand and ask them to let the rest of us talk.”

Sophie Baillon of Coalition PLUS defended her decision to interupt Clinton’s speech, telling the Australian Daily Mail: “I would say that we have honoured and made tribute to the six participants of the conference who sadly died in the airplane – they were also fighting every day to get more people being cured and this is also their legacy that we are transmitting.

“We can’t just have a vigil and stay silent we also need to express out viewpoints and keep on fighting it can’t just stop it has to go on.”

Also in his speech, Clinton said: “The AIDS-free world that so many of you have worked to build is just over the horizon. We just need to step up the pace. We are on a steady march to rid the world of AIDS.

“New data from 51 countries suggests 70 per cent of HIV-related deaths could have been prevented. The evidence continues to build that early treatment helps prevent further transmission.”

Last month, Clinton paid tribute to gay rights activists, in a televised message to mark the first anniversary of the repeal of DOMA.