Naked HIV protesters occupy pharma company’s HQ in drug price protest
Naked activists today stormed the London headquarters of HIV drug manufacturer Gilead, protesting what they described as the “extortionate price of medicines”.
Five protesters ran inside before removing all of their clothes to reveal letters spelling out “greed” emblazoned on their backs.
Around 30 other activists rallied outside, temporarily blockading the traffic on High Holborn.
They shouted “pharma greed kills” and wielded placards and large pink banners as bemused passengers on a double decker bus that had been stopped looked on.
Protesters left the building just before police attended the scene.
The protest was organised by ACT UP London – Aids Coalition to Unleash Power – a non-partisan group which employs direct action in an effort to “end the AIDS crisis”.
ACT UP spokesperson Tommy Clayton, 28, said: “We’re here to expose the lies that companies like Gilead are pedalling about R&D. They use the excuse of research costs to charge exorbitant prices.
“We’re demanding fairness in the price and equality in access to these drugs”.
The protest was part of a “globally coordinated day of action against pharmaceutical greed”, with similar protests taking place in cities around the world.
Gilead Sciences is the manufacturer of Truvada, the antiretroviral drug used widely in the treatment of HIV.
Last month NHS England controversially stalled plans to make Truvada available as an HIV prevention drug through pre-exposure prevention (PrEP) treatment – in spite of an NHS study showing it can drastically reduce the chance of HIV infection by up to 86 percent.
Health minister Jane Ellison said more trials were required to prove the drug is “cost effective”.
Gilead’s patents on Truvada will not fully expire until 2021.
Campaigner Alex Craddock, 24, linked this to his decision to join the protest, adding: “I felt outraged and let down by the decision.
“It’s not just NHS cuts, but the cost of these drugs. Pharmaceutical greed is blocking my access to PrEP.
“My health and that of many of my friends shouldn’t be at risk simply because these companies choose to put profit before people.”
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ACT UP protesters also stormed the offices of NHS England earlier this week.
Dani Singer of ACT UP London added: “The NHS is obliged to pay the exorbitant prices set by an oligarchy of pharmaceutical giants.
“The public won’t be taken for fools by ‘Big Pharma’ anymore! Globally, more than two billion people do not have regular access to the critical medicines they need. This is one in three of the world’s population.
“Every year, 10 million people die from diseases because drug pricing blocks access to effective treatments. One reason for this is the high cost of medicines under patent protection.”
Protester Jake Chambers added: “We stand here naked, completely vulnerable, a state in which the current system leaves millions around the world. We also stand with bareness and honesty, and we demand that drug companies be exposed in the same way.”
PinkNews contacted Gilead for comment but nobody was available.