Category Archives: PMS Matters

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.

Pitt Men’s Study: Protect yourself and your community against COVID-19.

Covid 19 blood sampleThe Pitt Men’s Study would like to remind our volunteers and the community at large that protecting yourself from getting COVID-19 is not only a way to safeguard your own health but also important in protecting everyone you come in contact with.

The best way to prevent COVID-19 (coronavirus) infection is to follow the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Wash your hands with soap and water, for 20 seconds
  • Hand sanitizer must contain at least 60% alcohol
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Put distance between yourself and others.
  • Stay home if you are not feeling well.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue
  • Throw used tissue in the trash
  • Immediately wash your hands or use hand sanitizer
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily
  • Wear a mask ONLY if you are sick or caring for someone who is sick

Remember, older adults and people with underlying chronic illness are at higher risk for serious complications from COVID-19 illness. Please call your healthcare provider if you have any of the following symptoms: Cough, fever, shortness of breath.

More information can be found on the CDC websites: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention.html   and https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/high-risk-complications.html#Have-supplies-on-hand

For local, Health Department information go to: https://www.alleghenycounty.us/Health-Department/Resources/COVID-19/COVID-19.aspx

Summer 2019 newsletter highlights study’s 35th anniversary

Clinic coordinator Bill Buchanan: “None of it would have been possible without the volunteers.”

From the Summer 2019 newsletter

The origin of the study can be traced to 1982, when University of Pittsburgh researcher Dr. Charles Rinaldo met with a young gay medical student named David Lyter to discuss the opportunistic infections that were killing gay and bisexual men. From this came the Pilot Study, which formed the basis for a 1983 National Institutes of Health grant application that created the Pitt Men’s Study, part of the national Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS) with additional sites in Los Angeles, Chicago and Baltimore.

“The study’s longevity is due to the incredible response from the community to one of the major health crises of our time,” says PMS clinic coordinator William Buchanan. “None of it would have been possible without the volunteers.”

Find out more in the Summer 2019 newsletter.

New immunotherapy kills HIV: Pitt Men’s Study participants “vital to the success of this study”

From Pitt Health Sciences

In a first on the quest to cure HIV, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health scientists report today in EBioMedicine that they’ve developed an all-in-one immunotherapy approach that not only kicks HIV out of hiding in the immune system, but also kills it. The key lies in immune cells designed to recognize an entirely different virus.

The discovery, made in the laboratory using cells from people with HIV, is yet to be tested in clinical trials, but could lead to the development of a vaccine that would allow people positive for HIV to stop taking daily medications to keep the virus in check.

“A lot of scientists are trying to develop a cure for HIV, and it’s usually built around the ‘kick and kill’ concept – kick the virus out of hiding and then kill it,” said senior author Robbie Mailliard, Ph.D., assistant professor of infectious diseases and microbiology at Pitt Public Health. “There are some promising therapies being developed for the kill, but the Holy Grail is figuring out which cells are harboring HIV so we know what to kick.”

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) typically controls HIV infections so well that the virus is virtually undetectable in the blood and cannot easily infect other people. But if a person with HIV stops taking the daily regimen of medications, which come with many side-effects, the virus can rage back and turn into full-blown AIDS. This is because the virus goes into a latent, inactive phase where it incorporates itself into the DNA of certain immune cells called “T helper cells,” and lurks while a person is taking ART.

Mailliard and his team decided to look at a different virus that also goes latent and infects more than half of adults – and 95 percent of those with HIV: Cytomegalovirus (CMV), which can cause eye infections and other serious illnesses, but is usually controlled by a healthy immune system.

“The immune system spends a lot of time keeping CMV in check; in some people, 1 one out of every 5 T cells are specific to that one virus,” said co-author Charles Rinaldo, Ph.D., professor and chair of Pitt Public Health’s Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology. “That got us thinking – maybe those cells that are specific to fighting CMV also make up a large part of the latent HIV reservoir. So we engineered our immunotherapy to not only target HIV, but to also activate CMV-specific T helper cells.”

To run the experiment, the team needed blood – and lots of it – from people with HIV controlled by ART. Nearly two dozen participants stepped up from the Pitt Men’s Study, the Pittsburgh  site of the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS), a research study of the natural history of treated and untreated HIV/AIDS in men who have sex with men.

“The MACS participants were vital to the success of this study,” said first author Jan Kristoff, M.S., a doctoral candidate at Pitt Public Health. “You have to collect a lot of blood to find T cells latently infected with functional HIV in people on ART – it could be as few as 1 out of every 10 million cells. So the men would sit for as long as four hours hooked up to a machine that processed their blood and came back multiple times to give more samples.”

Read more on the UPMC Website.

 

Dr. Rabinowitz one of the first doctors in Pittsburgh to treat gay men and people with HIV

The Pitt Men’s Study extends its heartfelt sympathy and condolences to all those touched by the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill on October 27.  While all the deaths that day were tragic, the death of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz is particularly significant to our volunteers and staff.  Dr. Rabinowitz was one of the first doctors in Pittsburgh to welcome both gay men and people with HIV into his practice, a safe space and source of compassionate and accepting care for many of our volunteers for three decades.  Long-time staffer Bill Buchanan remembers, “Every time volunteers completed releases to send their results to Dr. Rabinowitz – and that happened a lot – they would express their deep respect and admiration for him.  I never heard a bad word about him from anybody in thirty years.”  Jerry Rabinowitz was a pillar of the community, and he will be sorely missed.  Donations can be made in his memory to Dor Hadash, 5898 Wilkins Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15217.

 

 

 

Pitt Men’s Study launching new initiatives in 2017

Wondering what’s up with the Pitt Men’s Study?

Principle investigator, Dr. Charles Rinaldo spells it all out in an open letter to the Study’s participants, including detailed information about upcoming research for 2018. Click on a printable PDF file of Dr. Rinaldo’s letter to get all the details.

For more information about the Pitt Men’s Study, contact us at:

Pitt Men’s Study
P.O. Box 7319
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
412-624-2008 or toll-free at 1-800-987-1963
PMS@stophiv.pitt.edu