Archive for June 2012

Happy Retirement, Carol Perfetti!

June 29, 2012

Long-time Pitt Men’s Study data manager Carol Perfetti is retiring at the end of June. Carol has been the data manager at the Pitt Men’s Study since the spring of 1984, longer than any other current staff member. Though few of our clients have met Carol, she’s been behind the scenes all the while, handling the data gathered from clients during their visits. Below is an interview we conducted with Carol in 2009 on the occasion of our 25th anniversary. We wish Carol all the best in her retirement!

How did you find out about the job?

I heard about it from Larry Kingsley [co-principal investigator for the Pitt Men’s Study].  At that time I was working at the Graduate School of Public Health on a study of blood pressure in children.  Funding was running out, and I had no idea where I was going to work next.  Larry used to smoke in my office because he had a non-smoking office, and one day he mentioned that a data manager was needed for a new study that was starting up.  And here I am, twenty-five years later.

What have you gotten out of it?

It’s been very educational.  I came into it not knowing anything about gay culture.  And if you’ve seen the questionnaires from the very beginning, the sexual practices section was really extensive.  I was going to Tony [Silvestre, co-principal investigator] and saying, “What is this?  Golden showers?”  Tony, bless his heart, would explain all these things to me.

I’ve met some terrific people over the years.  Ric Witt was one of them.  A lot of people didn’t like him, cause he was a feisty little son of a gun.  But a very good nurse.  I can remember him getting ready to go to some dress-up occasion, and he’d gone to the thrift shop and got several frilly dresses and was trying them on for us.  “What do you think about this one?”  And there’s skinny little Ric with these big biceps in these frilly dresses.

Has the job changed over the years?

Things have changed a lot.  At the beginning you’d see several death reports coming in every month, and then to watch HAART therapy come in around the mid-nineties and to watch that just stop…now we hear about guys dying and it’s as likely to be about something non-AIDS related as something AIDS related.  I may not have known the guys, but I knew there was a guy behind this report that I was looking at, and I remember just feeling so bad that so many young guys were dying.

The few times when we’ve had the big celebrations, that’s been my chance to see the guys, and to look around and think, man, these guys have been coming in, giving their blood and answering these questions for years and years and years.  That’s impressive.  It gives a face to some of these numbers.  Numbers can get old.  When you see the faces, it makes it real.  It did at the twenty-fifth anniversary for me.  It made me feel like twenty-five years have been worthwhile.

National Hepatitis C Helpline

June 27, 2012

A new helpline has been established for those affected by hepatitis C. Callers can get information about hepatitis C, find resources in their community, and connect with peer counselors.

Dial toll free: 877-HELP-4-HEP (877-435-7443)

Hours: 9:00am to 7:00pm EST, Monday through Friday

More information: www.help4hep.org, info@help4hep.org

National HIV Testing Day

June 25, 2012

National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) is an annual campaign coordinated by the National Association of People with AIDS to encourage people of all ages to “Take the Test, Take Control.”

Too many people don’t know they have HIV.  In the United States, nearly 1.2 million people are living with HIV, and almost one in five don’t know they are infected. Getting tested is the first step to finding out if you have HIV. If you have HIV, getting medical care and taking medicines regularly helps you live a longer, healthier life and also lowers the chances of passing HIV on to others.

PATF Begins Volunteer Mentoring Program

June 12, 2012

The Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force (PATF) has begun a volunteer mentoring program designed to connect individuals newly diagnosed with HIV with a person who has lived with HIV for at least three years. The goal is to provide support for newly diagnosed individuals to help them cope with the diagnosis. Support could include phone calls, sharing techniques on coping and information related to HIV treatment, passing the time or just hanging out. For those accepted into the program there is an interview process and a two-day training.

Download the flyer here. For more information contact:

Shennod Moore, Director of Community Outreach at PATF
Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force
5913 Penn Ave
Pittsburgh PA 15206

Phone: 412-345-0585
Email: smoore@patf.org
http://www.patf.org

“We Were Here” revisits 1980’s AIDS crisis to inform younger generation

June 6, 2012

From Salon.com:

The director of a new documentary says younger generations need to be familiar with the horrors of the early ’80s

The AIDS epidemic hit San Francisco’s gay community in the early ’80s like a mysterious plague, killing thousands before anyone knew exactly what it was. It wasn’t that long ago, but the fear and devastation of those days may have been swept aside in the  rushes for the cure and activism that’s followed, even as AIDS remains a worldwide pandemic.

That the horror of those days has been forgotten — or never learned — by younger generations inspired David Weissman’s “We Were Here,” an effective and moving documentary that revisits the harrowing era through the eyes of a handful of people who lived through it. Three decades later, they’re still trying to make sense of what happened.

Read an interview with the film’s creator, David Weissman on Salon.com.

You can see a preiview of the film at the film’s official Website, wewereherefilm.com and on PBS.org/independentlens.

Tony Silvestre Awarded

June 1, 2012

Pitt Men’s Study Co-investigator Anthony Silvestre, PhD, was recently recognized with the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force’s (PATF) 2012 Founders’ Award. Says PATF: “The Founders’ Award is presented to an individual who carries on the vision of the founders of the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, embodies the agency mission and demonstrates their commitment through long-term volunteer service to PATF and its clients.”

Below is an account that Tony wrote for the occasion describing the PATF’s genesis and its relationship to the Pitt Men’s Study. Congrats, Tony!

A Reflection of the Past

Tony Silvestre

News of the first cases of a strange viral disease among gay men was passed over with little notice by nearly everyone inPittsburgh. Virtually no one imagined that more than 50 million humans would be infected and that millions would die. A few scientists at the University of Pittsburgh knew differently. In 1982, they watched the mystery virus destroy the first Pittsburgher it infected.

A few activists in the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) community were also troubled and began raising the alarm. Few heeded it. With little fanfare, the scientists and community activists joined hands to submit a grant to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to begin looking for this virus inPittsburgh. In 1983, the NIH awarded the grant to create the Pitt Men’s Study and the activists became members of its Community Advisory Board (CAB).

Within weeks, Study staff began receiving calls from people affected by the disease. A sister called wanting to know if her brother with this strange illness posed any health threat to her newborn child. A mother called wanting to know how to care for her son who was being released from a hospital. A niece wanted assistance after being fired her boss found out that her uncle died of this strange new disease.

When the calls became too numerous for staff to handle, the CAB contacted local governmental and private organizations to help. None did. Some did not return calls, one official said the problem wasn’t serious enough, and others just did not have the resources.

The CAB decided to form a new organization to care for infected people and to educate the public. They put out a call for a public meeting and more than 40 people showed up. These 40 learned that no one knew the cause of this disease or exactly how it was transmitted. They learned that infected people, their families and caregivers were shunned and discriminated against. They learned that there were no funds, nor the expectation of any funds, from foundations or the government. Nevertheless, the group elected a Board of Directors and formed committees to begin the work.

Without the expectation of public approval or guarantees of personal safety, 40 people stood up and said “Enough!” They began an organization – the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force – which continues to stand up and work to lessen suffering, increase knowledge, and affirm human dignity.