Category Archives: Activism

Use your brain to help people living with HIV

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Nebraska Medical Center are looking for participants living with HIV, and participants not living with HIV, for a non-invasive brain imaging research study.

sculpture of human face and brain

Image courtesy of David Matos

The purpose of the first research study is to investigate brain activity, cognitive functioning, and aging in those living with HIV versus those living without HIV. The human brain and cognitive abilities change as people age, and this research study aims to identify those changes.

The purpose of the second research study is to investigate how chronic cannabis use affects brain activity and cognitive functioning differently in people who are living with HIV and those who are not living with HIV. To study the brain, researchers will be using a series of brain imaging tests, both of which are completely non-invasive. There is no cost to you, and you will receive compensation for your time and travel expenses.

You may be eligible if:

  • You are between the ages of 19 and 72
  • You have not had a stroke or been diagnosed with any neurological or psychiatric disorder(s)
  • You are able to complete a series of mental tasks You are not pregnant or planning to become pregnant
  • You either regularly use cannabis or do not use cannabis

This research study is sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health. For more information, please call 412-246-5590 or send an email to mindscan2019@gmail.com. You can also download the study brochure.

PA Commission on LGBT Affairs submits recommendations to the state regarding LGBTQ senior care

In a letter to Robert Torres, Secretary of Aging Pennsylvania Department of Aging, representatives of the PA Commission on LGBT Affairs wrote:

In February, the Aging Workgroup of the Commission on LGBTQ Affairs developed a survey to hear from aging service providers and LGBTQ consumers across the Commonwealth. The survey was completed by over 400 individuals, representing both service providers and older Pennsylvanians. The Workgroup used this survey data to craft the recommendations […]  LGBTQ older adult respondents expressed great concern over being able to access LGBTQ-friendly resources and services. A strong majority indicated they would more readily access these services if they knew providers had completed LGBTQ cultural competence training. Providers also identified the need for greater training within the aging network to develop the knowledge and skills needed to more effectively serve LGBTQ older adults and individuals living with HIV. They reported wanting more resources that they could share with co-workers to improve their agencies, and resources to share with clients to help them connect to LGBTQ-friendly services. Providers and consumers both identified the need for non-discrimination protections, improved data collection, and greater support for LGBTQ people in the long-term care system.

A formal document regarding recommendations to the Department of Aging, at the Pennsylvania Department of Health, include:

    • Expanding LGBTQ cultural competence within all levels of care providers
    • Develop training opportunities and resources on the topic of HIV & Aging
    • Support advocacy efforts for LGBTQ older Pennsylvanians
    • Establish mechanisms for collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity
    • Provide training materials for aging services providers
    • Identify opportunities to partner and support LGBTQ affordable, inclusive housing initiatives
    • Develop and share resources related to LGBTQ aging with all levels of care providers
    • Develop programs that deal with social isolation, including training seniors on the use of social media technologies

You can find out more in the official document, with the full list of recommendations, submitted to the Department of Aging here. For more information about the Department of Aging, go here.

Pittsburgh HIV/AIDS advocate August Pusateri dies

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.”

August “Buzz” Pusateri

August “Buzz” Pusateri

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.

The community mourns the loss of Pitt Men’s Study advisory board chairman

August “Buzz” Pusateri

August “Buzz” Pusateri

August “Buzz” Pusateri passed away on Monday, May 4th. Buzz was a well-known community activist who dedicated much of his life to combating AIDS. He was a founding member of the Pitt Men’s Study community advisory board and volunteered for the Shepard Wellness Community. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote a feature about Buzz back in 2001, which you can find here.

Buzz will be missed but his contributions to the LGBTQ community will continue well into the future. Here are just a few tributes from friends and colleagues:

From Dr. Charles Rinaldo, principle investigator of the Pitt Men’s Study…

I am extremely saddened to inform you that long time founding member and chair of the Pitt Men’s Study Community Advisory Board, LGBTQ advocate and dear friend August “Buzz” Pusateri passed away overnight. We in the Pitt Men’s Study have known Buzz for 35+ years. He was always there for us. This is a terrible loss.

From Dr. Larry Kingsley, co-investigator of the Pitt Men’s Study…

Buzz was the best of the rest of us. I remember him since 1984 when he was gracious enough to pilot test the first MACS questionnaire, which I administered. He never flinched. He gave far more to us than we could return. Buzz is on my mensch list, which is short.

From the Shepherd Wellness Community…

Buzz volunteered in our kitchen for five years before joining our staff as chef from 1998-2006. 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.

A longtime advocate for HIV/AIDS, Buzz was proud to be a long-term survivor. He shared this experience publically to combat stigma and proclaim that people living with HIV can have full and meaningful lives. Buzz also had a career as a pharmacist and would often speak to our members about the need for careful adherence to their HIV/AIDS regimens.

A man of many interests, Buzz loved classic cinema and he delighted in hosting movie nights at our center where he presented the background of each film, accompanied by his review. We remember Buzz for being deeply spiritual and a devoted and active member of St. Paul Cathedral.

From the Delta Foundation…

Buzz’s community contributions are long: He was on the board of the Lambda Foundation, was a founding member of Community Advisory Board at the Pitt Men’s Study, founded Dignity Pittsburgh (and was their the longest serving treasurer and secretary), was a long-time supporter of Shepherd Wellness Community, and was a founder of the Pittsburgh Coffeehouse. He was also a proud member of the Board of Directors for the Delta Foundation and was recently named an Emeritus member. Buzz was out and proud at a time when the LGBTQ community was invisible and was always advocating against the stigma that still remains to this day as a person living with AIDS.

From Persad Center…

Buzz was a man that set the bar for dedication and compassion among LGBTQ advocates in the Pittsburgh area for the last few decades. He is fondly remembered by so many for his loyalty and drive to help those living with HIV. He was an inspirational human being, and often helped folks find their place when it came to helping others in the LGBTQ community. He was a joy to work with and be around and helped so many people. He will be missed.

***

A memorial will be scheduled at a later date. Details to follow.

NIH statement for World AIDS Day 2019

From the NIH

Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America aims to close this implementation gap. NIH-funded advances in effective HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care are the foundation of this effort. In addition, expanded partnerships across HHS agencies, local community organizations, health departments, and other organizations will drive new research to determine optimal implementation of these advances. This type of research is called “implementation science,” and is essential to translate proven tools and techniques into strategies that can be adopted at the community level, particularly for communities most vulnerable to HIV.

Understanding what works to prevent and treat HIV at the community level is critical to the success of the Ending the HIV Epidemic plan. More than 50% of new HIV diagnoses in 2016 and 2017 occurred in just 50 geographic areas: 48 counties; Washington, D.C.; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Seven states also have a disproportionate occurrence of HIV in rural areas. For its first five years, the new initiative will infuse new resources, expertise, and technology into communities in those key geographic areas.

However, communities are more than just geography. On World AIDS Day, we are reminded that Ending the HIV Epidemic must take place “Community by Community.” The people affected by HIV are a part of unique communities often shaped by differences in race, ethnicity, gender, culture, and socioeconomics. To reach people who have different needs, preferences, and choices, and ensure that HIV treatment and prevention tools can work in their lives, we must go beyond a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Read the full statement on the NIH Website.

The most insidious virus: Stigma

Stigma did not create AIDS. Yet it prepared the way and speeded its ravaging course through America and the world. First stigma delayed understanding of the disease: it’s a gay cancer, it’s a punishment from God, they brought it on themselves, so who cares? Then stigma delayed government action, research, and assistance for the sick and dying. Stigma made people afraid to get tested for HIV and treated. Stigma made people ashamed, isolating and alienating them from friends and family. Stigma cost people jobs, professional standing, housing, a seat on an airplane or in a dentist’s chair. Stigma made many afraid to live, and want to die. But then it began to make some brave people very angry and AIDS activism was born. The activists quickly realized that to end AIDS we must end stigma.

AIDS activism did more to fight the stigma on being gay or having AIDS than any other social force. In this way, AIDS activism, like the civil rights movement, became a great moral movement of our time, defending the innocent, restoring dignity to the violated, giving hope to the desperate, and reviving faith in the disillusioned. AIDS activism gave LGBT people courage, dignity, and power they had never held before.  It inspired many to stand up and proudly proclaim who they are and who they love. Twenty-six of the world’s most advanced countries now recognize gay marriage and today a gay man openly married to another man is a prominent candidate for President of the United States.

Read the full article.