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HIV/AIDS in Contrast with the COVID-19 Pandemic — Lessons in History

HIV/AIDS in Contrast with the COVID-19 Pandemic — Lessons in History

Think Queerly Podcast Leadership Discussion — TQ125


What are the similarities and differences between the HIV and COVID-19 pandemics? In what ways are they comparable? Might it be offensive or “triggering” to those who survived the HIV/AIDS pandemic to compare COVID-19 to this period in time?


In this Think Queerly Podcast Leadership Discussion, I speak with Jeffry Iovannone and David Butler about having lived through the origins of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, political and social observations, human behaviour, social media, community response, ACT-UP and activism, and how we can contrast this knowledge with what we are currently experiencing in real-time with COVID-19.

Historians have long argued that infectious diseases have changed the course of humanity throughout history.

“HIV, a pandemic that is still with us and still lacks a vaccine, has killed an estimated 32 million people and infected 75 million, with more added every day.”

Bryan Walsh; BBC

While HIV and COVID-19 are both considered pandemics (a disease epidemic that spreads worldwide) they are dramatically different for many critical reasons that we discuss, including:

  • How did AIDS change humanity?
  • While there are aspects of the current pandemic that are beyond our control, in what ways might this situation provide us with the opportunity to reshape humanity for the better?
  • Instead of just critiquing our current system, what kind of a world would we like to live in, and what can we do to get there?
  • What lessons from the HIV/AIDS epidemic are most applicable to this moment in terms of not only surviving the current crisis but working towards a better world?
  • How do we come together to create change when the current pandemic necessitates us to remain physically apart?


David Butler is an eclectic artist, actor and designer living in Buffalo, NY. After thirty years as a traditional theatre actor and set designer, Butler has now transitioned to work in the motion picture industry. As Production Designer, a number of his films are available on Amazon and Netflix including After the Sun Fell, Cold Book, the lesbian thanksgiving coming-out comedy Lez Bomb, and the recently released teen thriller, Dead Sound.

Butler has been an active member of his LGBTQ Community since his early days in Act UP in the late 1980s and he currently shares the facilitation of his home town LGBTQ Facebook page. Later this week they plan to announce the group’s first mini, virtual, pride fest called “PRIDE INSIDE!” Follow Dave on Twitter and Instagram.

Jeffry Iovannone

Jeffry J. Iovannone is an activist-scholar, writer, educator, and researcher from Buffalo, New York who holds a Ph.D. in American Studies and specializes in gender and LGBTQ studies. He is the creator of the blog Queer History for the People, a columnist for Th-Ink Queerly, and a member of the Buffalo-Niagara LGBTQ History Project. Follow Jeffry on Twitter.