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
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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.”