Was Frank Ocean’s queer dance party PrEP+ even that queer?

Members of the LGBTQ community are criticizing the highly-publicized Blonded affair for its historical erasure of the AIDS crisis.

October 18, 2019
Was Frank Ocean’s queer dance party PrEP+ even that queer? Collier Schorr

Last night marked the first installment of Frank Ocean's new club night, PrEP+. Named after the Gilead-patented HIV prevention drug, the event was publicized as "an homage to to New York's 80s and 90s club scene, and what it could have been if PrEP had been invented in that era." Taking place at Knockdown Center, Frank enlisted Bouffant Bouffant, Justice, Sango, and Sherelle to DJ the party, and even played what might have been new music.

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The event has garnered a mixed response from the LGBTQ community after reports seem to suggest the gay-themed party wasn't really that gay. "There's no sex, no prep navigators, no community orgs," wrote activist Jason Rosenberg. "Oh yeah, and security was super tight; they took my Truvada bottle out of my backpack, and opened it and I jokingly said “that’s my PrEP” and no laughs were received back." A different anonymous source claimed that multiple people in line had to confirm to security that the pills they were bringing in were the titular PrEP pills.

The guest list was kept tight and exclusive, with plenty of celebrity appeal. Among those sighted in attendance were Kevin Abstract, Princess Nokia, and Keke Palmer. Frank himself even mingled with the crowd a bit. "It was the Brooklyn creative crowd that you would expect. Your run of the mill industry people," a source told The FADER. "But it was so dark that you couldn't see anyone that well, so the mix-y industry people couldn't be too mix-y."

The bulk of the criticism seems to stem from the haphazardness of its premise. "People living with HIV in the 80s faced almost certain death, which formed "futurity," queer theory & NYC culture," wrote Dr. Steven W. Thrasher. "These things couldn't have happened without people living with HIV."

Additionally, there didn't appear to be any tangible connection to HIV prevention — or the lack of accessibility to it — beyond the party's name. "There is an underlying assumption that since PrEP “exists” it is accessible to all," wrote AIDS awareness organization ACT UP New York. "The reality is, the CDC referenced 1.2 million people in the U.S. should take PrEP but only a fraction of them have access." The FADER has reached out to Gilead Sciences Inc, the biopharmaceutical company behind PrEP, to confirm whether or not it had any involvement in the party.

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Was Frank Ocean’s queer dance party PrEP+ even that queer?