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AHF Dumbfounded by Gilead’s Claim of No AIDS Stigma Today

·3 min read

In recent legal filing in lawsuits over one of its HIV/AIDS medications that causes permanent and potentially deadly damage to the kidneys and bones, Gilead’s white shoe law firm, Sidley Austin, stumbles as it claims "…there is no shame or stigma …" associated with the disease today

At the same time its lawyers deny AIDS stigma, NBC News reported that Gilead itself funded a newly released study that found half of Americans "… said they’d feel uncomfortable with a HIV-positive medical professional, 42 percent were uncomfortable with a hair stylist or a barber living with the virus, and a third (34 percent) said they were uncomfortable with an HIV-positive teacher."

LOS ANGELES, September 16, 2021--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today, AIDS Healthcare Foundation announced that in a recent legal filing in personal injury lawsuits against Gilead Sciences Inc. seeking to hold the Bay Area drug maker accountable over one of its HIV/AIDS medications that allegedly causes permanent damage to the kidneys and bones, lawyers for Gilead claimed that "no shame or stigma" remains associated with HIV/AIDS today as they sought to reverse a judicial order denying Gilead access to AHF’s patient and client mailing lists.

In an August 9, 2021 filing in the Superior Court of California County of San Francisco (Case No. CJC-19-005043) seeking reconsideration of the Court’s Recommended Order No. 19 (Motions to Quash, and to Modify, Deposition Subpoena For Production of Business Records to AIDS Healthcare Foundation), lawyers for Sidley Austin, Gilead’s law firm, twice asserted there is no longer stigma associated with HIV or AIDS today, writing:

  • "Support for the HIV/AIDS community is not even stigmatized in today’s society," (pleading, P #5, lines 19 & 20), and

  • "Further, there is no shame or stigma associated with supporting those affected by HIV/AIDS…" (pleading, P #9, lines 17 & 18).

At nearly the same time Gilead’s lawyers dubiously claimed that no HIV/AIDS stigma remains today, a new study undertaken by the LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD and the Southern AIDS Coalition found that half of Americans "… said they’d feel uncomfortable with a HIV-positive medical professional, 42 percent were uncomfortable with a hair stylist or a barber living with the virus, and a third (34 percent) said they were uncomfortable with an HIV-positive teacher." According to NBC News, the study, "The State of HIV Stigma 2021", was published and widely reported on August 26, 2021.

NBC News also reported that Gilead funded the study.

Gilead’s assertions denying the existence of stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS today came about in its response to multiple personal injury lawsuits by patients taking Gilead medications. The lawsuits focus on Gilead’s failure to rectify a known defect in its tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) drug formulation, knowing that a safer alternate, tenofovir alafenamide (TAF) existed—in Gilead’s own laboratories—and for its failure to warn patients of the damaging side effects of TDF as well as Gilead’s active misrepresentation of TDF’s efficacy and risks. AHF supported many of the plaintiffs’ lawsuits, which likely led to Gilead’s discovery requests for its mailing lists.

Gilead’s zeal to maintain and maximize its corporate profits came at the expense of the health and wellbeing of its customers who were prescribed and taking TDF. According to earlier pleadings in the cases, the company knew as far back as 2001 from its own studies and other research that TDF was, ‘…highly toxic in the doses prescribed and risked permanent and possibly fatal damage to the kidneys and bones.’

"It’s official, according to Gilead: there is no longer any stigma around AIDS today," said Michael Weinstein, president of AHF. "I suppose that means Gilead wasted a lot of money on its recent—and disheartening—GLAAD/Southern AIDS Coalition study documenting the ongoing and severe stigma around HIV and AIDS. Perhaps Gilead should instead spend its energy developing a drug to treat the willful blindness associated with its overwhelming greed. They make billions of dollars harming HIV/AIDS patients when they knew they had a better, less toxic drug sitting on the shelf. Now, they declare AIDS stigma no longer exists. Gilead, what astounding arrogance—and greed!"

About AHF

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to over 1.6 million individuals in 45 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Eastern Europe. To learn more about AHF, please visit our website: www.aidshealth.org, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth and follow us on Twitter: @aidshealthcare

View source version on businesswire.com: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20210916005715/en/

Contacts

Ged Kenslea, Senior Director, Communications, AHF
+1.323.791.5526 mobile
gedk@aidshealth.org

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