HIV, Climate Change, and LGBTQ Equality: Parallel Causes

John Casey is a PR professional and an Adjunct Professor at Wagner College in New York City, and a frequent columnist for The Advocate. Follow John on Twitter @johntcaseyjr.

It was an honor of a lifetime to help lead a global public relations project with the United Nations Foundation on behalf of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UNIPCC). The work occurred during the almost two-year run-up to the Paris Climate Treaty Accord that was triumphantly signed by nearly 200 countries in December of 2015. 

Part of our task was to help the over 800 UNIPCC climate scientists from around the world (who are not paid) explain their groundbreaking Fifth Assessment Report, a thorough examination about the state of the Earth’s climate to the media and public prior to Paris. The UNIPCC, established in 1997, has so far prepared five massive reports since its inception to inform world leaders prior to global UN climate conventions. Before the Paris accords, we were able to help scientists speak in simpler and more convincing terms about their work, and the implications for world governments of the United Nations to act sooner rather than later. 

Climate Week in NYC, a yearly event that coincides with the annual United Nations General Assembly, recently wrapped. Given the enormous crowds of students, which included queer youth, during last Friday’s Global Climate Strike, this year’s Climate Week will also be bigger than ever before. And climate change is front and center in the Democratic primary, having its own townhalls with the candidates on CNN and MSNBC. After thinking about the fight for climate change, and the fight for LGBTQ rights, I realized that there were many similarities about our fights and triumphs. Coincidentally, through the years, our community has heralded major advancements and setbacks alongside those of climate change. 


The comprehension of the devastation of HIV and AIDS started to trickle out to society in the early- to mid-1980s.  At that time, AIDS and HIV weren’t so much in the public consciousness since it was erroneously perceived as more an “us versus them,” gay versus straight, problem.

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