Frank Ocean has confirmed that his New York City PrEP+ nightclub event was fully funded by “Blonded” radio, rather than the pharmaceutical company and PrEP patent holder Gilead Sciences, as had been rumored.
“Now in 2019, there’s a pill you can take every day that will at a better than 90% chance prevent you from contracting HIV,” Ocean wrote in a statement on Tumblr. “This pill was approved by the FDA in 2012. The pricing strategy behind it is malicious in my opinion and so its public perception is marred and rightfully so. But the fact remains that despite price being a very real barrier to this potentially life saving drug for some, the other very real barrier is awareness.”
The Blonde singer debuted the inaugural installment of his nightclub series, PrEP+, Thursday (Oct. 17). The evening was supposed to be an anti-discriminatory event that paid homage to the New York nightclub scene during the ‘80s and ‘90s, noting what could it could have been if the AIDS epidemic hadn’t happened.
“Club culture around late ‘70s and ‘80s nightlife in NYC was a special, much talked about and written about thing,” Ocean wrote. “From the star studded midtown clubs like studio 54 and the first danceteria to the downtown clubs like Mudd + paradise garage. The figures, the music, the looks, the lack of regulation haha. I recognize NY wasn’t all lasers and disco lighting and that simultaneously, there was a lot of crime and poverty and that a huge part of club culture, the gay community, at that time were being wiped out by HIV + AIDS.”
“I decided to name, what was otherwise going to be a night of lights and music inspired by an era of clubbing that I loved PrEP+ because while designing the club which is inside of an old glass factory basement in Queens... I started to imagine in an era where so many lives were lost and so much promise was lost forever along with them, what would it have been like if something, anything had existed that in all probability would’ve saved thousands and thousands of lives,” he continued.
Beyond circulating rumors about Gilead Sciences’ role in the party, others criticized it for not bringing enough awareness to the drug and health crisis.
“We love you frank, but 80’s nightlight was revolutionary because of people living with HIV and their caretakers. Let’s uplift our elders and honor their legacy,” AIDS awareness organization ACT UP New York tweeted. “Also there is an underlying assumption that since PrEP ‘exists’ it is accessible to all — when the reality is, the CDC referenced 1.2 million people in the U.S. should take PrEP but only a fraction of them have access.”
also there is an underlying assumption that since PrEP “exists” it is accessible to all — when the reality is, the CDC referenced 1.2 million people in the U.S. should take PrEP but only a fraction of them have access.— ACT UP New York (@actupny) October 17, 2019
Others criticized the event’s exclusivity and tight security. Those on the guest list included Kevin Abstract, Princess Nokia, Keke Palmer and Frank himself, with music by Bouffant Bouffant, Justice, Sango and Sherelle.
Ocean most recently dropped “DHL,” his first single this year. In an interview with W Magazine, he suggested that his thoughts on new music have been inspired by electronic and club music, pointing to another reason he his launched his PrEP+ series.
“I’m an artist, it’s core to my job to imagine realities that don’t necessarily exist and it’s a joy to. A couple days before we threw the party, I was discussing this subject with my team and one of the architects I work with thought that PrEP as a drug had reached ‘100% saturation’ so far as awareness. I thought he was dead wrong... Awareness isn’t always what we’d hope it would be,” he concluded.