Teaming Up to Tackle HIV

Evergreen Health and UB Department of Medicine Participating in Clinical Trial investigating long-acting injectable treatment for HIV

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Evergreen Health and the University at Buffalo Department of Medicine – HIV and Infectious Diseases are participating in a multicenter clinical trial investigating the safety and efficacy of a regimen to treat HIV that is administered in monthly injections. ViiV Healthcare, the global specialist HIV company, majority owned by GlaxoSmithKline, with Pfizer Inc. and Shionogi Limited as shareholders, is sponsoring the trial. The first investigational long-acting injections are scheduled during May.  The injections will be administered at Evergreen Health.

“I am honored to have been selected to participate in this trial,” said Dr. Alyssa Shon, Principal Investigator of the Trial and Medical Director, Evergreen Health (pictured on left). Adherence is key to successful HIV therapy, and medication regimens that do not require daily dosing could transform how we treat HIV infection.”

The Antiretroviral Therapy as Long Acting Suppression (ATLAS) study is a global phase III study with a two-drug investigational regimen of long-acting, injectable cabotegravir (ViiV Healthcare) and long-acting injectable rilpivirine (Janssen Pharmaceuticals) in virally suppressed adults living with HIV. This injectable drug therapy, which is administered every four weeks, differs from most current antiretroviral drug therapy that is taken orally on a daily basis.

The University at Buffalo Department of Medicine – HIV and Infectious Diseases Division has been actively involved in HIV clinical trials for more than three decades. This clinical trial is another way that Evergreen and the University at Buffalo continue to collaborate to enhance HIV care in our region.

 

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You’ll Recognize This Face at Almost Every Evergreen Event

If you’ve ever attended AIDS Walk Buffalo or a WNY Pride Week event, chances are you’ve spotted Melvin Martemianov-Roundtree. Melvin is one of Evergreen Health’s most dedicated supporters, giving generously of his time and energy both as an individual and through M&T Bank, where he works as a Business and Planning Analyst. “I first became involved with Evergreen through the Pride Resource Group (PRG),” said Melvin, referring to M&T’s LGBT employee organization. “It was a great way to get involved in the community. Working with Evergreen has been a rewarding experience especially when I see the positive impact Evergreen and the Pride Center have on the community.”

Melvin has been a volunteer at Evergreen events for more than four years and a member of the AIDS Walk steering committee for three years. His community spirit and leadership abilities don’t end there. Melvin is also on PRG’s Leadership Committee and has served as the group’s President and Co-Chair of Community Development & Outreach (a position he holds today). “Over time M&T has built a strong relationship with Evergreen,” said Melvin. “It’s centered on and built around volunteerism.”

M&T has indeed been a loyal community partner with Evergreen and the Pride Center for many years. “Their involvement runs deep,” said Ray Ganoe, Evergreen’s President & CEO. “We’ve had donors, volunteers and even Board members come to us from the ranks of M&T staff.”

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M&T has a highly visible role as presenting sponsor of the Buffalo Pride Festival. It’s not an empty gesture. Diversity and inclusion are built into M&T’s corporate culture. The bank has an excellent score of 95 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which rates businesses on their treatment of LGBT employees and customers.

While Evergreen, the Pride Center and the entire community certainly benefit from M&T’s emphasis on civic engagement, Melvin says that he benefits as well. “I think that the most rewarding experience comes from working with the community,” he said. “I’m a strong advocate for volunteerism. I’ve built many strong friendships through volunteering and it’s a great opportunity to learn from others while sharing my own stories and experiences.” Melvin is inspired by the way the community comes together to support common causes. “The highlight for me is seeing the energy in the people that volunteer and the passion they exude. I’ve worked the AIDS Walk in sunny, warm weather and in cold, rainy weather. No matter what the weather has been on the day of the Walk, you can see how much this event means to the community.”

Rachel Voelkle-Kuhlmann is the Volunteer & Event Coordinator at Evergreen. She notes that Melvin brings that same energy and passion that he sees in others to his own volunteer work. “Melvin is an incredible community supporter of Evergreen and the Pride Center,” said Voelkle-Kuhlmann. “He’s always ready to help with a smile on his face, from organizing condom packing parties for his colleagues at M&T to running the AIDS Walk incentives tent or providing valuable input as an AIDS Walk committee member. Melvin’s dedication to Evergreen is a testament to his drive for building a healthier and more inclusive Western New York. He inspires us all.”

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Melvin looks forward to expanding his role at Evergreen. “In the future I anticipate being even more involved as a volunteer for Evergreen and the Pride Center,” he said. “I look forward to being a continued advocate for the wonderful presence that these organizations have in our community, and I want to continue to help expand the already outstanding partnership between Evergreen and M&T!”

Keep your eye out for Melvin at this year’s Pride Week events!

To learn about current volunteer opportunities, visit buffalopridefestival.com. 

 

How one Evergreen Health patient is breaking barriers in WNY

Linda came to the United States as a political refugee from Morocco in 2015. Almost immediately she found herself at Evergreen Health. “My caseworker brought me to Evergreen because of their reputation for providing good care to LGBTQ people,” she said. “Evergreen is really involved with refugees and people with low incomes.” Once Linda began to receive primary care and mental health counseling her life took a dramatic turn for the better. “I suddenly had the opportunity to see an endocrinologist, a primary doctor and a counselor that I could talk to whenever I felt the need. I was able to have medical tests to put my mind at ease, and I got answers to all my questions.”

Testing revealed that Linda has a condition known as Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (PAIS), which impairs the masculinization of male genitalia in a developing fetus as well as the development of certain secondary sexual characteristics at puberty.

“I have an XXY chromosome set with PAIS,” explained Linda. “I have one ovary, a uterus and a vagina, but I also have one testicle. I have a female skeleton and I menstruate. People like me were once called ‘true hermaphrodites’ but that’s an obsolete term now.”

Linda was raised as a girl up until the age of 9, when she began high school. “I grew up with four brothers,” she recalled. “I was always a tomboy. I felt weird wearing a dress or a skirt. When I started high school I went with a shaved head and baggy clothes, and a year later I transferred to an all-boys school.” At 14 Linda graduated from high school and had her first period. “I felt so defeated. I stopped wearing boy’s clothing, and began the process of learning to be a woman. My late friend Ornella was a huge help to me. She understood me and guided me through the ups and downs.”

After high school Linda attended university in Casablanca and Paris, earning a Masters degree in international relations. “Now at almost 22, I’m able to accept myself as I am,” said Linda. “It’s been a long process. Thank God I have my family that supports me even from far away. Evergreen offered me an amazing support system as well, especially (Nurse Practitioner) Lynn Grucza. She’s one of the best things that could’ve happened to me.”

Linda is now able to enjoy life as it comes. “I know tomorrow is not guaranteed to us,” she said. “But I have hopes and goals for the future. I want to live a life with no more surgeries (I have a few correctives yet to do) and I want to work to spread awareness of genital mutilation and the impact it has on so many people around the world.”

Genital mutilation involves the ritual cutting or removal of some or all external female genitalia. The practice is rooted in gender inequality and attempts to control women’s sexuality, and is associated with a variety of negative health effects. There are no known health benefits to genital mutilation.

“I’ve been touched by genitalia mutilation from a very early age,” said Linda. “My mother was introduced to me only after surgery was performed just hours after I was born. I’ve lost a close friend to the practice as well. It’s very important for me to speak out for what I believe in. I feel like it’s my mission to shine the light on the damage genital mutilation causes. The physical pain is nothing compared to the emotional devastation.”

Linda is working on a website to fight genital mutilation and a documentary on the topic may also be in the works. “Buffalo has a lot of refugees who have unfortunately been exposed to mutilation because of their culture. And finally, I want to say that I’m extremely grateful to Evergreen for not only saving my life, but giving me the opportunity to express myself.”

Editor’s Note: if you’d like to know more about genital mutilation, share your story or get involved in Linda’s efforts to fight the practice, contact her via Instagram (@kriolili) and\or via email (MaeMGMT@outlook.com).

Volunteer for Buffalo Pride Week!

Evergreen Health is a co-host of Buffalo Pride 2018, and we need your help!

Pride Week is made possible every year by the hard work and dedication of hundreds of volunteers. Each event throughout the week offers a wide variety of volunteer opportunities, so you can select a position based on your availability and skill-set. There’s something for everyone!

This year we’re looking for volunteers for the Gay 5K, Dyke+ March, and the Pride Parade and Festival! Click here to sign up.

For more information about the year’s official Pride Week events, go to buffalopridefestival.com.

Buffalo Pride Week is presented by M&T Bank and co-hosted by Evergreen Health and the Pride Center of WNY. 

 

Thank you for supporting Evergreen Health at AIDS Walk Buffalo!

We want to give a big thank you to all of our sponsors, donors, walkers and volunteers at AIDS Walk Buffalo 2018!

The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and your support was incredible. Packed with an energetic crowd and lots of fun activities, AIDS Walk was a huge success! Whether remembering a loved one during the flower launch, taking in The Mending of the Hearts Project display, or gathering with friends at the picnic lunch — participants came together to celebrate community and camaraderie.

We couldn’t have done it without your commitment, passion and dedication. It was truly a day that illustrated How Far We’ve Come as an organization and as a community in ending stigma and in improving the lives of those affected by HIV.

Your support of AIDS Walk Buffalo helps our mission of fostering healthy communities by providing medical, supportive and behavioral services to individuals and families in Western New York, especially those who are living with chronic illness or who are underserved by the healthcare system. Every dollar is absolutely vital to our programs and services, and every dollar means the world to our patients.

Our campaign will remain open through May 31 on aidswalkbuffalo.org.

Thank you!

To learn more about Evergreen Health and the services we offer, visit evergreenhs.org.

Harm Reduction Center Participants Take Action

Some of the participants in Evergreen Health’s Harm Reduction Center have been pretty busy lately. They are members of the Drug User Health Coalition Group, which Evergreen formed to give them a chance to provide feedback and work together on education and advocacy efforts about substance use issues.

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The group traveled from Buffalo, NY to Albany to participate in town halls and visit state legislators. They have also played a role in the following campaigns for HIV, Hepatitis C and overdose: Ending the Epidemic, NYS Hepatitis C Elimination and End Overdose NY.

The coalition members are really making a difference and we know that many people listen when they speak up and share their feedback. We are here to support all our participants and it’s amazing to see them get involved and motivated to take better care of themselves, too. That’s the best part!

Together, we are working to help combat overdose and other health issues in our community.

 


 

Evergreen’s Harm Reduction Center provides:

  • Access to clean syringes and works
  • Overdose prevention training
  • Wound care
  • One-on-one support
  • Support groups

To learn more, visit evergreenhs.org.