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Advances in Health and Medicine

AIDS Research Overturns a Death Sentence


In 1981, a Pitt microbiologist examining blood from a patient realized he'd never seen such a baffling case before. Some unknown virus was inexplicably killing people, especially gay men.

The microbiologist, Charles R. Rinaldo Jr., had a hunch that if he collected blood samples from homosexual men in Pittsburgh, he might find clues in the early stages of this new disease and be able to study its biology and behaviors—the first steps toward finding a cure.

Along with fellow professor Anthony Silvestre and other colleagues, Rinaldo started the Pitt Men’s Study at the Graduate School of Public Health. In 1983, the study became part of the National Institutes of Health’s first research program to investigate HIV and AIDS. Since then, the study has followed a group of volunteer men over decades to gather information on the epidemiology, virology, immunology, and pathology of HIV.

The Pitt Men’s Study has led to several scientific breakthroughs, transforming the disease from an immediate death sentence to a manageable condition.