Category Archives: Community

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:

decorative imageIn 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.

Shepherd Wellness Community seeking applicants for new Executive Director

decorative imageFrom the Shepherd Wellness Community

Our long-time Executive Director will retire in 2020 after decades of service to our organization and our mission. The Board of Directors is seeking to hire a new Executive Director who can build upon the strong reputation and impactful services in place and take the organization to new heights of fulfilling our mission.

APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS:
  • Visit swconline.orgto learn more about Shepherd Wellness Community.
  • Review the Executive Director Position Description, including required and preferred credentials, experience, and expertise at com.
  • Submit a cover letter and resume through the job posting located on indeed.com.
  • Applications are due no later than 5:00 PM EST on May 29, 2020. This timeline may be extended without notice.

Cover letters and resumes must be submitted through the job posting on Indeed.com.

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.

FAQs about HIV and COVID-19

An open letter from Eugene McCray, MD at the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, CDC…

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about HIV and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The new resource addresses concerns related to COVID-19 and HIV and highlights how people with HIV can protect their health.

COVID-19 is a respiratory infection that can spread from person to person. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. While most people have mild symptoms, some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. People at higher risk include older adults and people with serious underlying medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease.

In the United States, nearly half of people with diagnosed HIV are aged 50 and older. People with HIV also have higher rates of chronic heart and lung disease. Like other respiratory infections among people with HIV, the risk of getting very sick is greatest in people with a low CD4 cell count and people not on HIV treatment. Encouraging people with HIV to stay on treatment and take preventative actions will play an essential role in protecting the health and well-being of those who are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

People who are taking medicine to treat (ART) or prevent (PrEP) HIV should stick to their treatment plan, continue taking their medicine consistently, and follow the advice of their health care provider. Some types of HIV medications are being evaluated in clinical trials to treat COVID-19, but there are no data available yet showing that these drugs treat COVID-19. People who develop symptoms that could be consistent with COVID-19 should talk to their health care provider about how to get evaluated. Please visit the COVID-19 website to learn more about how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Furthermore, some of CDC’s recommendations to help people with HIV protect themselves from COVID-19 include:

  • Having at least a 30-day supply of HIV medicine available.
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
  • Practicing good hand washing.
  • Avoiding large crowds and gatherings.
  • Avoiding non-essential travel.
  • Following recommendations made by local public health officials.
  • Establishing a clinical care plan to communicate with health care providers online or by phone.

We encourage you to review the FAQs and share these resources with your colleagues, friends, and family.

While we remain committed to ending the HIV epidemic in the United States, the response to COVID-19 has been a top priority for many people across the world. Thank you for your unwavering commitment to supporting this vital response. Together, we can make sure our families, friends, and communities have the information and resources they need to stay healthy and protect themselves from COVID-19.

Sincerely,

/Eugene McCray/

Eugene McCray, MD
Director
Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
www.cdc.gov/hiv

Take the 2020 PA LGBTQ+ Needs Assessment

CenterLink is working with a coalition of more than 25 LGBTQ organizations across the state of Pennsylvania to collect data for the 2020 PA LGBTQ Needs Assessment. This information will be used to fuel new and existing community-based programs designed to close gaps in service and address the unique health needs of our population.

centerlink logos

We are asking you to take the time to raise your voice for LGBTQ health, and be entered in a raffle to win a gift card now, by taking the 2020 PA LGBTQ Needs Assessment here. People can also participate through a Spanish version here.

Every person who partakes in the survey will be helping Pennsylvania’s department of health learn more about how to promote the health and well-being of LGBTQ people and helping our coalition to build a stronger network of LGBTQ community supports across the state.
Thank you for your participation.

Sharable Link: https://lgbtactionlink.org/take-action/blog/2020-pa-lgbtq-needs-assessment

Unsung heroes: Pittsburgh men, decades-long study impact HIV/AIDS research

From the Triblive.com

As they have for more than three decades, the Pitt Men’s Study leaders gathered with about four dozen men and women. They remembered those who have died and gave thanks for the 1,743 men who have participated in the nation’s longest-running HIV/AIDS research project.

World AIDS Day observance at the Heinz Memorial Chapel—an event sponsored by the Pitt Men’s Study

Charles Rinaldo, a Ph.D. scientist who has led the effort since the virus surfaced here in 1981, walked solemnly down the center aisle with a group of clergy.

“So here we are again to honor our participants,” the soft-spoken Rinaldo said, welcoming the sparse group. “For 35 years now, you have supported our study for HIV/AIDS. … We can’t thank you enough. Without you, there is no study.”

Every six months, year after year, participants have trekked to Oakland to offer blood and bodily fluids. Their alms have become the foundation of hundreds of research projects.

The Pitt study, conducted in the halls of the university where Jonas Salk developed the world’s first polio vaccine, began before the affliction that has killed an estimated 32 million people worldwide even had a name: human immunodeficiency virus. Or simply, HIV.
Neither the virus nor its final, deadly stage — acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS — dominates the news and national fears as they did decades ago. Yet around the world, about 38 million people remain infected. Many are living longer lives thanks to lifesaving, though expensive, medical treatments. But there is no cure — yet.
Worldwide, an estimated 1.7 million people became infected with HIV last year. Another 770,000 died from AIDS-related illnesses.

In the United States, just more than 1 million people are believed to be living with HIV. Although the number of new infections has declined dramatically, nearly 40,000 in the U.S. still contract HIV every year. And about 16,000 people died from AIDS in the United States in 2016.

Because of that, work on the Pitt Men’s Study continues.

Read the full article.

Be a part of the HIV conversation in PA

Who we are: We are a diverse group of representatives working to enhance HIV prevention and care efforts for Pennsylvania.

What we do: Our work contributes to the development of the HIV Prevention and Care Plan, which implements ongoing objectives and activities to reduce the spread and infections of  HIV.

Who we’re looking for: Individuals who are living with HIV; at high‐risk for HIV infection and are: racial and ethnic minorities, between the ages of 14 and 39, and/or transgender; representatives from Ryan White Part B‐D grantees; employees or clients of HIV prevention/testing/PrEP providers; and County/Municipal Health Departments. Applications from all interested candidates will be considered.

Interested applicants may contact Corrine Bozich at cnb31@pitt.edu.

You can also apply to be a member of the HIV Planning Group at: https://tinyurl.com/HPGApplication2019

The application deadline is November 7th.

How Pittsburgh is at the forefront of HIV awareness, prevention, and care

From the Pittsburgh City Paper…

On World AIDS Day in 2015, AIDS Free Pittsburgh launched as a collective initiative of healthcare institutions and community-based organizations to support those living with HIV/AIDS, and those in high-risk communities. Following the example of San Francisco and New York, the organization set three goals: to increase access to PrEP, to routinize and destigmatize HIV testing, and to put in place a rapid linkage to care for those diagnosed.

One of the major successes of these efforts has been the increased information about and access to PrEP. Dr. Ken Ho, chair of the PrEP subcommittee of AIDS Free Pittsburgh, says, “We’ve developed multiple programs to make PrEP more accessible in Pittsburgh.” He goes on, “My hope is that our efforts will translate to a continued decline in HIV infections.” These efforts have included putting together PrEP toolkits for providers, hosting informational happy hours for pharmacists, and multi-pronged advertising and media campaigns to chip away at the stigma associated with HIV.

Read the full article.