Taking on Big Pharma during an airing of Rent Live, whoever was live tweeting from the ACT UP New York account pulled no punches. Bringing musicals to life as live productions is one of the latest things on broadcast television. The networks have tackled several major productions including Grease, Hairspray, and The Wiz. Few productions have the underlying political and social implications of Rent.
The importance of ACT UP as a frame of reference for the time and activism during the early 1990s is subtly threaded within scenes. However, as I watched and tweeted along with friends, the very real need for ACT UP and the importance of its work came across my timeline very clearly after a pharmaceutical commercial aired during one of the breaks.
Pulling no punches, ACT UP New York’s twitter account let
What’s wrong with advertising an H.I.V. prevention medication during
Rent is an emotional and beautiful journey of several friends grappling with very real life issues. I have not watched any version since I was much younger. Seeing the storyline unfold and watching the real-life activism and engagement taking place online, I am inspired and disgusted at the same time. As I am writing, the friends have just said goodbye to their friend Angel. Mark and Roger are singing “we’re dying in America, to come into our own.” While the chances of those with H.I.V have improved since RENT was first released, we have a way to go.
Watching Rent, I remembered my mom’s work with the Chicago Women’s AIDS Project in the early 90s. ACT UP seizing on the moment to remind those of us watching along with Rent about the very real history and work still happening was a reminder of why they have been a go-to leader in this space for so long. Thirty-one years and ACT UP is still building and organizing to advocate and demand equity in treatment and availability of life-saving medications like PrEP.
We see this battle over pharmaceutical giants and excessive costs play out in many areas. In the past few years, there have been more than a few stories about the price gouging of life-saving medications like EpiPens. Truvada is the only medication approved of its kind and yet pharmaceutical giant Gilead is currently under no obligation to provide an affordable alternative. Gilead cannot hide behind patients who are able to receive PrEP through insurance or prescription savings programs when so many people do not have the benefit of either. Groups such as ACT UP are not letting Gilead off the hook. Neither should we. We need to put people over profit and BREAK THE PATENT.