As battle against HIV continues, Pitt Men’s Study volunteer joins coronavirus vaccine study

From the Tribune Review online

When drug makers solicited volunteers to test a coronavirus vaccines, Marc Wagner jumped.

It was a matter of giving back. “I never thought I would outlive a number of my relatives my age or younger,” said the 58-year-old Swissvale resident. “And here I am, still alive.”

Marc Wagner

Marc Wagner

Wagner felt compelled to do his part for science. But just as important, it was an opportunity for him to honor the herculean efforts of scientists and others he has met over the last 35 years in his battle against HIV.

As he made final arrangements for the annual remembrance service the community advisory board of the Pitt Men’s Study hosts every year on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, Wager got news that the Oxford-AstraZeneca study he is participating in had proven its covid-19 vaccine to be up to 90% effective.

The news was encouraging, but it hasn’t distracted from the event he and other members of the Men’s Study community consider an important duty: honoring those who have given their lives over to the HIV/AIDS study.

Wagner is among some 2,000 men who volunteered for the study in the 1980s and 90s. About 500 surviving volunteers continue to show up faithfully at Pitt twice a year to provide blood and bodily fluids in the quest for a cure for HIV/AIDS. The Pitt Men’s Study is one of the nation’s longest running scientific research studies.

The University of Pittsburgh is among several centers nationwide in the ongoing Multi-Center AIDS Cohort Study. The federally funded study, funded through 2026, has been the foundation for more than 1,700 papers that have advanced the understanding and treatment of illness.

Honoring the Pitt Men’s Study volunteers, many of whom came forward when HIV/AIDS was a death sentence and some of whom have since died, is a sacred honor, said Charles Rinaldo, a Ph.D. scientist who has led the effort at Pitt for nearly 40 years.

“We could not do it without these men,” said Rinaldo, chairman and professor of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health. “For over 30 years, they’ve been coming back religiously. These men are dedicated.”

Their participation over decades has allowed the study to focus, among other things, on the impact of HIV/AIDS in aging.

Leave a Reply