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.

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.

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

Trust and stigma affect gay couples’ choices on PrEP and PEP

From aidsmap.com

Both relationship-specific and structural factors influence whether coupled gay men living in New York City choose to use pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP/PEP) for HIV prevention. Some men – particularly those in monogamous relationships – felt that discussing PrEP and PEP in the context of a relationship could threaten the relationship by raising issues of trust, while others felt that it had the potential to enhance sexual health and satisfaction.

Stigma from the gay community and healthcare providers around promiscuity also presented barriers to PrEP uptake. This qualitative research was conducted by Stephen Bosco, Dr Tyrel Starks and colleagues at City University New York and published in the Journal of Homosexuality.

Gay and bisexual men accounted for 66% of all new HIV diagnoses in the US in 2017. It is estimated that 35-68% of these infections happen within the context of a long-term relationship. This indicates that coupled gay men have the potential to benefit significantly from biomedical prevention strategies, such as PrEP (taken on an ongoing basis) and PEP (taken shortly after a suspected infection). However, only 7% of the potential 1.1 million gay and bisexual men who could benefit from PrEP were prescribed it in 2016. Black and minority men in the US remain most at-risk for HIV infection, while also having the lowest rates of PrEP uptake.

Read the full article.

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.

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.

Studies firmly establish “undetectable equals untransmittable”

From NIH.gov

Extensive evidence from HIV prevention research studies has firmly established that “Undetectable Equals Untransmittable,” or U=U. This means that people living with HIV who achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load — the amount of virus in their blood — by taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) as prescribed do not sexually transmit HIV to others. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates this strategy is 100% effective against the sexual transmission of HIV.

Now, a new study of nearly 112,000 men who have sex with men in the United States has found increasing acceptance of the U=U message in this population. Overall, 54% of HIV-negative participants and 84% of participants with HIV correctly identified U=U as accurate. The study was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. Study results were published online in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.

“U=U has been validated repeatedly by numerous studies as a safe and effective means of preventing the sexual transmission of HIV,” said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., NIAID Director. “The increased understanding and acceptance of U=U is encouraging because HIV treatment as prevention is a foundation of efforts to end the epidemic in the United States and around the world. This public health message has the power to reduce stigma, protect the health of people living with HIV and prevent sexual transmission of HIV to others.”

Read the full article.

Only 13% of the gay community utilize LGBT-specific clinics and providers

From the Windy City Times

A new study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law (Utilization of LGBT-Specific clinics and providers across three cohorts of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in the United Statesfound that only a minority ( 13% ) of LGB people have utilized LGBT-specific clinics and providers, but a majority ( 52% ) expressed an interest in utilizing them in the future.

Researchers examined a representative sample of LGB people in the United States from three age groups—young ( 18-25 ), middle ( 34-41 ) and older ( 52-59 )—to understand the factors that influenced past utilization of LGBT-specific clinics and providers and interest in using them in the future.

“The discrepancy between past utilization and interest in future use of LGBT-specific providers suggests there is a disconnect between the type of healthcare many LGB people would like to have and what they have access to,” said lead author Alexander J. Martos, former Research Analyst at the Williams Institute. “Younger, Black LGB people and those with lower incomes reported the greatest interest in LGBT community-based healthcare.”

Read the full article.

NIH statement for World AIDS Day 2019

From the NIH

Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America aims to close this implementation gap. NIH-funded advances in effective HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care are the foundation of this effort. In addition, expanded partnerships across HHS agencies, local community organizations, health departments, and other organizations will drive new research to determine optimal implementation of these advances. This type of research is called “implementation science,” and is essential to translate proven tools and techniques into strategies that can be adopted at the community level, particularly for communities most vulnerable to HIV.

Understanding what works to prevent and treat HIV at the community level is critical to the success of the Ending the HIV Epidemic plan. More than 50% of new HIV diagnoses in 2016 and 2017 occurred in just 50 geographic areas: 48 counties; Washington, D.C.; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Seven states also have a disproportionate occurrence of HIV in rural areas. For its first five years, the new initiative will infuse new resources, expertise, and technology into communities in those key geographic areas.

However, communities are more than just geography. On World AIDS Day, we are reminded that Ending the HIV Epidemic must take place “Community by Community.” The people affected by HIV are a part of unique communities often shaped by differences in race, ethnicity, gender, culture, and socioeconomics. To reach people who have different needs, preferences, and choices, and ensure that HIV treatment and prevention tools can work in their lives, we must go beyond a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Read the full statement on the NIH Website.

The most insidious virus: Stigma

Stigma did not create AIDS. Yet it prepared the way and speeded its ravaging course through America and the world. First stigma delayed understanding of the disease: it’s a gay cancer, it’s a punishment from God, they brought it on themselves, so who cares? Then stigma delayed government action, research, and assistance for the sick and dying. Stigma made people afraid to get tested for HIV and treated. Stigma made people ashamed, isolating and alienating them from friends and family. Stigma cost people jobs, professional standing, housing, a seat on an airplane or in a dentist’s chair. Stigma made many afraid to live, and want to die. But then it began to make some brave people very angry and AIDS activism was born. The activists quickly realized that to end AIDS we must end stigma.

AIDS activism did more to fight the stigma on being gay or having AIDS than any other social force. In this way, AIDS activism, like the civil rights movement, became a great moral movement of our time, defending the innocent, restoring dignity to the violated, giving hope to the desperate, and reviving faith in the disillusioned. AIDS activism gave LGBT people courage, dignity, and power they had never held before.  It inspired many to stand up and proudly proclaim who they are and who they love. Twenty-six of the world’s most advanced countries now recognize gay marriage and today a gay man openly married to another man is a prominent candidate for President of the United States.

Read the full article.

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.

NIH bolsters funding for HIV implementation research in high-burden U.S. areas

From HIV.gov

The National Institutes of Health has awarded approximately $11.3 million to 23 institutions across the United States to collaborate with community partners to develop locally relevant plans for diagnosing, treating and preventing HIV in areas with high rates of new HIV cases.

The awards will help enhance the implementation science knowledge base needed for the proposed Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America. The plan aims to leverage the powerful data and tools now available to reduce new HIV diagnoses in the United States by 75 percent in five years and by 90 percent by 2030. President Donald J. Trump announced this bold new initiative during the State of the Union Address in February. If funds are appropriated by Congress, the 10-year initiative will begin in fiscal year 2020. The awards announced today are one-year awards to support pilot and formative studies to prepare for more extensive implementation science research proposals expected in 2020.

“With existing, powerful HIV treatment and prevention tools, we can end the epidemic in the United States,” said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at NIH. “The new initiative is a practical, achievable implementation plan. By working directly with health departments and other community organizations, researchers can find the best ways to use the highly effective methods at our disposal to diagnose, prevent and treat HIV in the United States.”

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