AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) spearheaded the protests at the conference, which ends today and according to the website of conference host, the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC), “…is the largest annual AIDS-related gathering in the U.S., bringing together thousands of workers from all fronts of the HIV/AIDS epidemic—from case managers and physicians, to public health workers and advocates, people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) to policymakers—to build national support networks, exchange the latest information and learn cutting-edge tools to bring an end to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.”
“On Sunday we effectively shut down the Gilead booth that was promoting Stribild when we surrounded it, chanting and doing a ‘die in.’ The response from conference attendees was pretty positive, as many of them photographed the action and took the John Martin $1,000 bills that we handed out. We had some attendees join in our protest holding signs and chanting with us,” said Joey Terrill Director of Community Mobilization for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “On Monday, we changed our strategy protesting and returning after twenty minutes or so effectively ‘chasing’ playing this ‘cat-and-mouse’ game. We also marched with signs around their other booth, which was not Stribild-specific spreading out our advocacy action to another central location in the exhibition hall. All this was part of our overall effort to highlight and shame Gilead for the huge wealth that John Martin is accumulating by gouging government programs—the largest purchaser of pharmaceuticals—for their AIDS drug pricing and policies exemplified by the astronomical $28,000 price of Stribild.”
Each day at the protests, AHF’s Terrill dressed as John Martin wearing a mask with his likeness. Terrill was joined by dozens of others from AHF and other AIDS groups around the U.S. at the actions sporting a mix of handwritten signs, banners with the $1,000 John Martin bill and handing out smaller versions of the bill with information about the group’s concerns printed on the back.
“It’s outrageous for Gilead’s CEO to be one of the highest paid executives in the nation, making tens of millions of dollars by selling lifesaving medications at such high prices that more than 2,000 Americans in desperate need of medications cannot access them,” said Michael Weinstein, AHF’s President. “People living with HIV/AIDS, their families, friends and communities should be up in arms over this sort of corporate greed in the face of life-or-death need. So too should taxpayers, who are almost directly responsible for placing wads of cash in Martin’s pockets. It’s the taxpayers who foot the bill for government health care programs—like state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs—a significant contributor to Gilead’s profit margin.”