CHICAGO: Several dozen HIV/AIDS advocates peacefully disrupted the U.S. Conference on AIDS (USCA) only minutes after it officially opened Thursday morning. The action was targeted at pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences and its controversial pricing of the anti-retroviral medication Atripla.
The group encircled Gilead's conference booths with a red ribbon, wore masks of Gilead CEO John C. Martin, held signs that read "Occupy Gilead" and chanted "Gilead is the 1%." Gilead is a lead sponsor of USCA 2011.
"The exhibit hall was only open a half hour and [the] action began around Gilead and their pricing," Amanda Lugg Director of Advocacy & Mobilization of the New York City-based African Services Committee told R20. "I was very pleased to see that."
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 9,000 people across the U.S. are on waiting lists for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, the federal/state program that helps low-income, people living with HIV/AIDS pay for their expensive medications. Despite this fact, the cost of Atripla went up by 5.1 percent, while Truvada and Emtriva increased by 7.9 percent. The oft-prescribed Atripla is at the top of the unaffordable list, priced at $10,000 per patient per year.
Gilead is maintaining a price freeze for drugs going toward ADAP but the general price increase is expected to "increase costs to Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies."
The recession has forced a number of states to slash funding to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. Those in the program are disproportionately Black, Latino, gay/bisexual men and women. In 2010, at least a dozen states closed enrollment in ADAP.
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Watch videos of the protest AFTER THE JUMP ...