People living with HIV are eligible for COIVD 19 vaccination now

A message from Rob Ghormoz, Secretary of Intergovernmental Affairs, Office of the Governor…

The Pennsylvania Department of Health today will announce two additional categories of eligible individuals to receive the COVID-19 vaccination as part of Phase 1A. Beginning today, all individuals 65 and older, and individuals ages 16-64 with certain medical conditions, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that increase the risk of severe illness from the virus, are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination. The Departments’ Updated Interim Vaccine Plan can be found here.

Those conditions are outlined by the CDC here and include: Cancer; Chronic kidney disease; COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease); Down Syndrome; Heart conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies; Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant, blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines; Obesity; Severe Obesity; Pregnancy; Sickle cell disease; Smoking; and Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

If you are part of a group that is eligible for vaccination, you can use the Pennsylvania Vaccine Provider Map to find a place to schedule your vaccine. Contact the vaccine provider of your choice directly to schedule an appointment. This map will be updated as more locations receive vaccine. Although a provider may have received vaccine, there is no guarantee that they have open appointments as supply is still very limited. Check back frequently as the map will be updated multiple times per week.

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.

Protect Yourself from the Flu: Important Info for People with HIV

From HIV.gov

Getting a flu vaccine during 2020-2021 is more important than ever because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. When you get vaccinated, you reduce your risk of getting sick with flu and possibly being hospitalized or dying from flu. This season, getting a flu vaccine has the added benefit of reducing the overall burden on the health care system and saving medical resources for care of COVID-19 patients.

People with HIV—especially those who have a very low CD4 cell count or who are not taking antiretroviral therapy—are at high risk for serious flu-related complications. For this reason, it is especially important that people with HIV get a flu shot annually. (The nasal spray flu vaccine is not recommended for people with HIV.)

In addition to getting a flu shot every year, people with HIV should take the same everyday preventive actions CDC recommends of everyone, including avoiding people who are sick, covering coughs, and washing hands often.

Read the full article on HIV.gov.

Switching HIV treatment to delstrigo is safe and effective

From Poz.com

People with HIV who switch from a stable antiretroviral (ARV) regimen to Delstrigo (doravirine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate/lamivudine) had a high rate of full suppression of the virus at the three-year mark in a large Phase III clinical trial.

Princy Kumar, MD, of Georgetown University, presented findings from the open-label, randomized, active-controlled, noninferiority DRIVE-SHIFT trial at the virtual HIV Drug Therapy Glasgow meeting.

Delstrigo contains the relatively new non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) Pifeltro (doravirine), which, like Delstrigo, was approved in September 2019.

Read the full article.

People with HIV are living longer

From HIV.gov

The HIV population in the United States is aging. This can be seen as a sign of success as people with HIV are living longer because they are engaged in care and benefiting from effective treatments. Consider these data from the HRSA Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP) fact sheet, Older Adult Clients: Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, 2018

  • 46.1% of individuals getting RWHAP care are over 50 years old, similar to the age demographics of all Americans diagnosed with HIV
  • 91.5% of those aged over 50 are virally suppressed, exceeding the RWHAP average of 87%.

The aging trend has been underway for many years and is projected to continue. In 2018, RWHAP clients aged 55 and older accounted for 31% of all clients, up significantly from 16.6% in 2010. A large proportion of RWHAP clients (45-54 years old) are on the cusp of joining the 55+ age group.

graph showing increase in age of HIV positive people

The trend is likely to continue. By 2030, 64% of RWHAP clients are projected to be 50+. See the CROI 2019 poster Projected Growth and Needs of Aging People Living with HIV in HRSA’s Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program , presented by HRSA staff and summarized in the HIV.gov blog HRSA Analyzes Growing Ryan White Client Population Over 50 Years Old .

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.