Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras members have voted to pass a motion from left-wing activist group Pride in Protest challenging PrEP manufacturer Gilead’s sponsorship.
The Pride in Protest group made headlines for their controversial Mardi Gras AGM motions to “disinvite” Prime Minister Scott Morrison and ban police floats.
While those motions were ultimately defeated at the AGM last Saturday (November 30), Mardi Gras members did pass two others.
One successful motion condemns pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, a 2019 Mardi Gras sponsor, “for price-gouging of PrEP in the US”.
Gilead manufactures and sells the HIV prevention drug Truvada, which is taken as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
In Australia, PrEP is subsidised on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which dramatically lowers its cost to patients.
However, Gilead has been slammed for the high cost of Truvada in the US. In May, The Washington Post reported the drug costs between $US1,600 and $US2,000 a month.
Pride in Protest say prices like these make the drug “inaccessible to most LGBTIQ Americans” at risk of HIV.
The US government last month sued Gilead Sciences, accusing them of making billions from taxpayer-funded research without paying royalties.
Mardi Gras members also passed a separate Pride in Protest motion to create an “ethics charter” for assessing sponsors on human rights grounds.
Responding to the motion ahead of the AGM, a Gilead spokesperson told the Sydney Morning Herald the cost of Truvada to US patients was lower than reported.
“Gilead is a company grounded by a desire to help patients in need, researching, developing and delivering life-saving therapies in HIV,” she said.
The drug company was also donating up to 2.4 million bottles of pills to uninsured Americans each year over the next decade, the spokesperson said.
“Gilead do believe it is reasonable for the Mardi Gras board to raise questions about the ethics of sponsors and to use these facts to inform a balanced view,” they said.
A similar Pride in Protest motion to condemn Qantas for its role in deporting asylum seekers on behalf of the Australian government was defeated.
Mardi Gras board to decide on adoption of motions
Mardi Gras members elected one of Pride in Protest’s four candidates, Charlie Murphy, to the board at the AGM last weekend.
“This proves that the membership, particularly trans and gender diverse people, have been waiting for a more radical kind of politics at Mardi Gras,” Murphy said.
“My election as the first open trans woman to the board will bring an intersectional and left-wing voice to the parade and all the work Mardi Gras does.”
In a statement, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras said, “At our AGM, our members were given the opportunity to vote on motions put forward by other members.
“Before the vote, the Board put forward its current position on each of the motions.
“Although some motions may have been voted in by members, as per Constitution, the final decision as to whether the organisation adopts these motions sits with the Board.
“When considering the motions, as with all decisions, the Board will be guided by the objectives as outlined in its Constitution and it’s values as outlined in the Strategic Plan.
“The final outcome will be presented to members in due course.”
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