Frank Ocean’s $60 HIV prevention drug-themed shirts called tone-deaf

Frank Ocean debuted nightclub events called “PrEP+” and $60 “PrEP+” T-shirts available to purchase on his website.

The openly gay R&B crooner announced the exclusive–you have to be invited to attend–nightclub events last week, with a Thursday press release stating that they’re “named PrEP+ as an homage to what could have been of the 1980s NYC club scene if the drug PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis)—which can be taken daily to prevent HIV/AIDS for those who are not infected but are at high risk—had been invented in that era.”

With the first PrEP+ night happening shortly after the release, people who were in attendance said they didn’t understand what PrEP+ had to do with it, aside from being an attention-getting name.

“Mind you there’s no sex, no prep navigators, no community orgs,” activist Jason Rosenberg, who was in attendance, tweeted. “Not sure what he was trying to do here.”

After Thursday’s event, Ocean’s website began offering two T-shirts with “PrEP” written across the front, each at a price point of $60.

A number of folks, even within the LGBTQ community, remain uninformed as to what exactly PrEP is or how it functions. Educating the community about that, as well as lessening the stigma still surrounding HIV/AIDS, is a worthy goal.

But some are now questioning Ocean’s PrEP-themed events and merch, namely the high price point of the shirts. As the potentially life-saving drug is notoriously overpriced–many cannot even afford to get their hands on it–people feel that Ocean selling PrEP-themed merch at such a high price with no indication that proceeds will benefit LGBTQ+ or HIV/AIDS-focused organizations is tone-deaf.

“frank ocean selling shirts that say prep on them for $60 like ummmmm are you using the profits to donate to orgs that give out prep for free???? bc otherwise yikes my dude!” Twitter user @kell_eesi wrote.

Writer Chris Thomas pointed out that PrEP’s price has increased by 45% in the past seven years. “But sure, let’s have Frank Ocean use a pill millions can’t afford to promo new music at a fake queer party and to sell $65 shirts,” he wrote.

Ocean has yet to respond to the criticism over the $60 shirts, but he did respond to the PrEP+ club nights backlash.

“The pricing strategy behind [PrEP] is malicious in my opinion and so it’s public perception is marred and rightfully so,” he wrote. “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.”

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Rachel Kiley

Rachel Kiley

Rachel Kiley is a writer who sometimes writes things and sometimes is based in L.A., but is definitely always on Twitter @rachelkiley.