Cork Pride organisers defend controversial sponsorship.

Cork Pride organisers defend controversial sponsorship.
A general view of Cork Pride in 2017

The organisers of Cork Pride have defended their sponsorship deal with a pharma giant which tried unsuccessfully to block patient access to cheaper generic HIV drugs.

The team running Cork Pride this week insisted they will not cancel the deal with Gilead despite Green Party criticism yesterday.

Kery Mullaly, a member of the organising committee, insisted that Pride’s links with Gilead were forged in part from requests by LGBT employees within the company and he also described the Green Party’s intervention as “counterproductive and negative”.

It is not in the spirit of what the Green Party is or should be about,” he said. “Maybe they are trying to make themselves more relevant but perhaps they should be focusing on the positive things Cork Pride does.

Gilead, a US firm which has a facility in Cork, produces PrEP, a once-daily medication that can significantly reduce the risk of infection among people without HIV who are at high risk of contracting it, such as men who have sex with men. The branded Truvada drug costs over €400 a month.

Gilead’s patent on the drug, from which it has made an estimated €14bn globally, ran out in July 2017.

Last December, it was announced that cheaper generic versions — one is 85% cheaper — would be made available in Ireland.

Gilead failed to secure an injunction to block the sale of the cheaper drugs here and, last week, lost a legal battle in the European Court of Justice which effectively allows unfettered access to the cheaper generic alternatives.

Green Party activist and convenor of the party’s national LGBT organisation, Rob O’Sullivan, called on Cork Pride yesterday to cancel the sponsorship deal.

Cork Pride’s acceptance of sponsorship from them — at this time, and whether they realise it or not — is an endorsement of their conduct. It says it’s OK, or just business as usual,” he said.

“Pride began as a protest. Gilead’s business practices related to PrEP is something that should be protested, not endorsed or accepted.

“If Cork Pride genuinely represents the LGBT community in Cork, it should never accept sponsorship from them or any company whose conduct is contrary to the health, interests or ethics of the community.”

However, Mr Mullaly said this year’s Pride festival has done more than any previous festival to promote HIV awareness — work which would not be possible without the support of corporate sponsors such as Gilead.

The Cork Greens also said they will not be marching under their banner in the Cork Pride parade on Sunday after organisers “demanded a €250 entry fee”.

The party said it will instead donate money to LGBT charities and its members will march with the LGBT community as individuals.

However, Mr Mullaly said they never demand an entry fee and insisted the Green Party would, like other political groups, pay a substantially discounted entry fee which goes towards defraying the running costs of the event.

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