On meeting LGBTQ+ Needs
David Lyter was a Pitt Med student in the early 1980s when he “barhopped” for research on a dangerous new virus that was spreading. Lyter (MD ’84, MPH ’88, Res ’91, Fel ’94) spent his nights and weekends traveling to gay bars throughout western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and West Virginia in search of gay men willing to have their blood drawn, frozen and later tested.
Lyter was recruiting participants for a pilot study for which he would later serve as medical director. That pilot grew into the current Pitt Men’s Study, the country’s longest-running HIV/AIDS research investigation with more than 1,700 participants. The study’s principal investigator, Charles Rinaldo, Pitt professor of pathology and of infectious diseases and microbiology, credits Lyter with playing an essential role in the landmark study’s success.
“Recruiting was a lot of fun for me,” Lyter remembers. “And in some of the small outlying towns, there was no one else [participants] could talk to or ask questions.”
Four decades later, the most urgent health care need facing LGBTQ+ people, Lyter says, remains finding “a physician knowledgeable and sensitive to their issues.” Lyter has provided this lifeline throughout his career. After Pitt Med, he worked as an AIDS oncologist in Chicago, then moved to Tampa, where he opened the Diversity Health Center in 2018.
The center is a primary care practice for patients across the LGBTQ+ spectrum, as well as a broader catchment of Tampa residents. In addition to addressing primary care concerns, Lyter offers specialized care, such as hormone therapy for trans patients.
“For a lot of [my] transgender clients,” he says, “I’m the first physician that they’ve come out to, [so I’ve] been able to discuss their history and their excitement to get started on their transition with hormones and eventual surgeries.”
Lyter continues to offer AIDS/HIV-related care. “I do a lot of PrEP work,” he notes. PrEP, which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a drug that people at risk for HIV can take to prevent contracting the disease. His time at Pitt Med “taught me how to diagnose and treat HIV from the early days of AZT until today,” he says.