From the Trib Live…
August “Buzz” Pusateri played an integral role in the Pitt Men’s Study, a confidential research study of the natural history of HIV and AIDS. Not only did he believe in the importance of recruiting volunteers to help further research, he was one of the project’s first volunteers. Twice a year, sometimes more, Pusateri visited the clinic to give blood and answer detailed questions about his life. He also participated in special studies.
“Buzz got it across to the community … that this had to be done for them to defeat this epidemic of AIDS,” said Charles Rinaldo, a scientist and investigator of the Pitt Men’s Study. “He was central to it. He was always there. He was a tough guy, too.”
Pusateri, a long-term HIV survivor, died on Monday, according to a tribute on the Pitt Men’s Study website. He was 81. Pusateri was a well-known community activist, a founding member of the Pitt Men’s Study community advisory board, and a volunteer with Shepherd Wellness Community. He had been involved in the Pitt Men’s Study since recruitment began in 1984.
“It’s just a horrible loss,” Rinaldo said. “He was our go-to person as far as connecting with the community. He was number one in making sure the community understood.”
Pusateri tested positive for HIV more than 30 years ago. He told the Tribune-Review in 2015 “it’s been an up-and-down battle.”
“Really, with this HIV, you never know what’s going to happen to you,” Pusateri said in 2015.
The Pittsburgh resident was the longest serving chair of the community advisory board, the direct link between the researchers and LGBTQ community, Rinaldo said.
Despite having health problems in more recent years, Pusateri would still come to the board meetings, Rinaldo said.
“I called him the ‘Iron Man’ and he was,” Rinaldo said. “He had health issues, but that didn’t stop him.”
Close friend Richard Vinski said Pusateri was extremely inspirational and motivating.
“Any time something hit him or he ended up in the hospital … he’d say, ‘I’m going to beat this,’” Vinski said. “He just had a great outlook on life and he motivated people because of his strength.”
“If you looked at him he was a frail, small man toward the end of his life, but he was a big guy when it came to getting people moving and giving them the right point of view,” Vinski said.
Pusateri was proud to be a long-term HIV survivor, and shared his experiences publicly to combat stigma and prove that people living with HIV could have full and meaningful lives, officials with Shepherd Wellness Community said.
A pharmacist, Pusateri would often speak to center members about the need for careful adherence to their HIV/AIDS regimens. Shepherd Wellness Community is an AIDS Community center that helps people living with HIV/AIDS.
“Buzz volunteered in our kitchen for five years before joining our staff as chef from 1998-2006,” Shepherd Wellness Community officials said in a statement. “He delighted in planning menus and preparing meals that were high-quality, delicious and nutritious. He always beamed with joy when our community gathered to enjoy his sumptuous dinners.”
Pusateri also hosted movie nights at the center, sharing his love for classic cinema. Vinski said his friend was a collector of old movies.
“He was just a movie buff,” Vinski said.