- Frank Ocean was the target of online criticism over his use of the HIV/AIDS crisis to promote a new club night and merchandise named after a drug regimen used to prevent HIV infection.
- PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a method of HIV prevention that uses the daily pills Truvada or Descovy to block the transmission of the virus.
- Ocean used the name of the drug to front a new club night called PrEP+ in New York City and as a design for new t-shirts that are being sold on his site alongside new music.
- Ocean says the party is meant to recreate 1980s gay club culture but in the age of PrEP, when HIV is preventable.
- While many attended the event, some criticized Ocean, saying he was profiting off of the erasure of those who died in the AIDS crisis.
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Frank Ocean was the target of online criticism over his use of the HIV/AIDS crisis to promote a new club night and merchandise named after a drug regimen used to prevent HIV infection.
PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a method of HIV prevention that uses the daily pills Truvada or Descovy to block the transmission of the virus.
The singer first sparked reactions when he announced a new club night called PrEP+ in New York City, which was slated as a tribute to what the city’s 1980s queer club scene could have been if the medication had existed at the time. However, some were quick to point out that the theme seemed reductive and unrealistic.
This is a weird flex.
It imagines *universal* access to PrEP at an "exclusive" party?
It imagines the club scene in the 80s MADE BY ppl living with HIV as if…if would have been better without them?
And what good is PrEP access to ppl who were homeless, jobless? https://t.co/GmZJK2XB7N
— Dr. Steven W. Thrasher (@thrasherxy) October 18, 2019
The party was harshly reviewed, as journalists and other attendees said it didn’t acknowledge LGBTQ history, and was largely devoid of PrEP or HIV prevention or education, which has long been a cause championed by queer celebrities to spread awareness and push for developed government initiatives.
an absolutely huge paragraph from pitchfork’s review of frank oceans PrEP+ clubnight pic.twitter.com/cvGDI76nbL
— dan boo-yo 👻 (@tracybleaker) October 19, 2019
Days after the event, Ocean caused further controversy when he released $60 t-shirts emblazoned with “PreP,” which some tweeted seemed insensitive and unnecessary.
"Since brand-name Truvada [PrEP] was approved for HIV prevention [in 2012], its average wholesale price has increased by about 45 percent."
But sure, let's have Frank Ocean use a pill millions can't afford to promo new music at a fake queer party and to sell $65 shirts
— Chris Thomas (@frailfag) October 19, 2019
frank ocean selling shirts that say prep on them for $60 like ummmmm are you using the profits to donate to orgs that give out prep for free???? bc otherwise yikes my dude!
— spookelly (@kell_eesi) October 19, 2019
Frank Ocean selling shirts with PREP on them with no intention of giving back to the community that needs it the most ? Yeah this is gross, feels like exploitation. pic.twitter.com/qPgH4xkSk8
— 🥺 (@iamsuperrad) October 20, 2019
It is still unclear what will happen with the profits from the t-shirts, which are available on his website in black and white designs.
The New York chapter of advocacy organization Act Up pointed to the drug’s controversial history as part of Gilead Sciences, the nation’s largest HIV drug manufacturer, who previously marked up the drug’s cost to about $2,000 for one month’s supply.
A $60 tee with “PrEP” on it.
Sounds familiar to a pharmaceutical company that marks up the price of PrEP to over $2,000/month while it costs $6 to make a month supply. This is not it Frank. https://t.co/TEFhi2UO5O
— ACT UP New York (@actupny) October 19, 2019
The drug has been hailed as a game-changing development for sexually active queer adults and a milestone for HIV/AIDS prevention and protection. It’s rollout, however, has been marked by racial and financial access issues. A CDC analysis found that a substantial number of black and Hispanic people who should be taking PrEP based on risk factors aren’t, compared to at-risk individuals in other racial groups.