Category Archives: PMS Matters

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

Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force employee offers 25-year retrospective on the HIV/AIDS battle

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette…  (http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/osd.jsBy David Templeton)

30th anniversary of the PATF honors Dr. Tony Silvestre

Hundreds gathered at the WQED studios in Oakland on Thursday, April 14th at a fundraiser to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force.  The evening’s honoree, Dr. Anthony Silvestre received the prestigious Kerry Stoner Award in recognition of his extraordinary efforts in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

Dr. Tony Silvestre, Professor at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

Dr. Tony Silvestre, Professor at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

Dr. Silvestre became an integral part of the Pitt Men’s Study—a groundbreaking research project at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health—in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. Silvestre, known for his experience in community organization, recruited 4,000 participants from the greater Pittsburgh area—the vast majority of whom would spend the next 33 years donating blood and answering in-depth sexual health questions as a means to understand and therefore combat the disease. The Pitt Men’s Study played a key role in research that not only helped determine how the virus was spread, but also the effectiveness of modern anti-viral medications (also known as HAART).

In addition to the Kerry Stoner Award, Silvestre also received a citation honoring his achievements in combating HIV/AIDS statewide from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

“People don’t realize that this disease is still tragically affecting many—with young black gay kids at a rate as high as in some developing nations. Those who are marginalized by race, age and sexual orientation are not on anyone’s agenda and, as a result, are often left out of the health care system,” Silvestre commented at the event. “That’s why we need organizations like PATF and the Pitt Men’s Study.”

For most of his adult life, Silvestre was central to the LGBTQ community in Southwestern Pennsylvania, lending his skills and experience to effect positive change for marginalized communities. In addition to his efforts with the Pitt Men’s Study, he worked to establish a Center for LGBT Health Research within the Graduate School of Public Health and is currently the co-director of the HIV Prevention and Care Project—an organization also within the University that provides technical assistance to the Pennsylvania Department of Health in creating a state-wide response to the AIDS epidemic.

The Kerry Stoner Award is presented annually to honor a person who has, through a longtime dedication to Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force’s mission, shown commitment to Kerry Stoner’s legacy and vision. Stoner, a tireless HIV/AIDS activist who died of complications from AIDS in 1993, was a founder and the first Executive Director of the PATF.

The PATF 30the anniversary event raised over $100,000 in support of people living with HIV/AIDS and in support of the PATF HIV prevention programs.

 

Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force to host 30th Annual Benefit

The Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force will host their 30th Annual Benefit at WQED’s Studios on Fifth on Thursday, April 14, 2016.

PATF BenefitThe 30th Annual Benefit is a festive and fun evening that will feature nationally renowned DJ Jeffrey Sfire. Exquisite food and beverages will be provided by Common Plea Catering. The VIP reception begins at 6 p.m. and general admission will begin at 7:30 p.m.

As a part of this event, PATF will present the Kerry Stoner Award — named after PATF’s founder — in recognition of extraordinary service to the community related to HIV care and prevention. This year, we are proud to present this award to our own Dr. Anthony Silvestre, HIV activist and Principle investigator of the Pitt Men’s Study, in honor of his long-time outstanding support of PATF and people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

 Tickets are on sale now!

Contact Patrick Buehler, Development Associate, for more information: pbuehler@patf.org / 412-345-0593.