35 Years of Service

35 Years: A Collective Voice of Advocacy

From the earliest days of the epidemic, AIDS Project Los Angeles took pride in our aggressive and far-sighted approach to public policy, recognizing that advocacy at all levels of government would be vital to protecting the rights of people impacted by AIDS and increasing funding for care and treatment.

In May 1983, APLA sponsored a candlelight march at the Federal Building in Westwood that brought out a crowd of more than 5,000 people. In August 1985, APLA coordinated testimony before the Los Angeles City Council on discrimination against people with AIDS, and Los Angeles then became the first city in the nation to adopt protections against discrimination for people living with AIDS. In 1991, we organized a 168-hour vigil at Los Angeles County- USC Medical Center to draw attention to appallingly inadequate care for people living with AIDS.

Our advocacy work continues to see success today at the local, state and federal levels, including protecting funding for life-saving programs like the Ryan White Program and prevention funding at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

In Sacramento, APLA Health and our partners across the state have successfully pushed for increased services and funding over the past several years, including funding to subsidize costs for individuals whose access to health insurance coverage is blocked by escalating co-pays and deductibles. Last year, APLA Health scored an enormous win with a bill that now makes California the first state in the country to require providers to discuss information on PrEP and PEP to at-risk individuals who receive a negative HIV test result — and with the passage of a comprehensive HIV Decriminalization bill, which brought California’s HIV laws into the 21st Century.

We continue to work with our partners across the state on efforts to end the epidemic in California. APLA Health maintains a leadership role in community-based efforts to craft California’s plan for getting to zero which we will be advancing with the incoming administration in Sacramento after the 2018 gubernatorial election.

From the very beginning we made our voices heard in local debates and on the federal level. When the need for a national voice on AIDS issues became apparent, APLA Health – with a handful of partners – created Washington, D.C.-based AIDS Action Council. AIDS Action Council continues its important work today – as AIDS United – and APLA Health is as involved as ever.

Throughout our 35 years, we have seen presidential administrations come and go and know that each one will be judged by history on how they responded to the AIDS crisis. From Ronald Reagan’s long and disastrous silence on the disease to Barack Obama implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and a National HIV/AIDS Strategy, we have consistently advocated for policy, programs, funding and legislation to adequately address the needs of people living with HIV and those at risk.

We find ourselves once again on the defensive in Washington, as the administration and Congress continue their attacks on healthcare and entitlement programs such as Medicaid and Medicare which are the largest single providers of care and treatment for all of America’s most vulnerable populations, including individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Potential cuts to those programs could have catastrophic consequences to states like California that expanded healthcare under the ACA. By some estimates, federal efforts to block grant the Medicaid program alone could cost California some $20 billion annually in healthcare funding.

Continued engagement in public policy discourse is essential in shaping society’s response to the AIDS epidemic and healthcare in America. Last year, APLA Health marched with thousands of others at the #ResistMarch and we continue to be a widely recognized advocate for people living with and at risk of HIV/AIDS and for all communities in need of high-quality comprehensive health care. We take pride in our success (your success) at the community level and within the halls of government, without losing sight of the critical work that still needs to be done.

– Craig E. Thompson

1983 - 35 Years Ago: Our Founding and Expansion of Service

Since our founding, APLA Health has been at the forefront working to end the AIDS epidemic. This year marks the 35th anniversary of our incorporation and the launch of our fight against HIV/AIDS and to support those communities infected and affected by AIDS.

From the very beginning, one of AIDS Project Los Angeles’s key goals was to educate our community with factual, up-to-date information about the disease. We launched one of the nation’s first Hotlines, initially housed in an old closet with all that we knew about AIDS – a single page of facts and resources on a clipboard.

By the end of April 1983, we had supported 5 clients living with AIDS and answered thousands of phone calls. By April 1984, we had almost 180 clients.

One of our most critical early programs was the APLA Buddy program. Dozens, hundreds and then thousands of trained APLA volunteers helped clients with AIDS with daily tasks, social activities or even just provided basic human contact. Our volunteers took meals into the hospital rooms of AIDS patients -since the hospital staff was too frightened and left trays outside the door.

The program was followed by the APLA Dental Clinic in 1985, founded to treat people living with AIDS who were denied services by other dentists, and our Necessities of Life Program in 1986, which began as a $35 food voucher program and has become the Vance North Necessities of Life Program, the nation’s largest network of food pantries for people with HIV/AIDS.

For 35 years, we have fought to end the epidemic. We did this for our lives and for our future. Over the years, we have continually evolved and expanded our services to meet the growing and changing needs of people living with HIV/AIDS; adding behavioral healthcare, developing robust HIV & STD testing and prevention programs, increasing our advocacy work, broadening our support services and adding primary medical care.

Today, APLA Health serves more than 15,000 patients and clients annually, focusing on serving the low-income LGBT community and people living with HIV.

We continue to be the leading provider of HIV prevention and health education services in Los Angeles County targeting populations at highest risk of HIV, including gay men of color, young gay men and members of the transgender community.

2018 – WHO WE SERVE:
• 15,000 men, women and families annually
• 10,000 people in medical and dental care (3,600 HIV positive)
• 5,000 low-income people receiving critical HIV support services
• 69% of all clients are LGBT
• 68% of all clients live on less than $20,000 a year
• 57% of all clients are from a community of color

2018 – WHERE:
• 6 APLA Health Centers including Baldwin Hills, South Los Angeles, Long Beach, Mid City / Koreatown, Downtown and our newest site Fairfax – Carthay Circle
• 16 APLA Health locations covering Los Angeles County – from Lancaster to Long Beach

We (the patients, clients, staff and volunteers) at APLA Health owe a great debt of gratitude to each of you who support us. While we are grateful for the progress we’ve made to combat the disease, we will never forget those we lost along the way.

We remain as firmly committed to ending this epidemic as we were when we were founded in 1983. Over the coming months, join us as we look back at our 35 year history of service and our exciting future.

– Craig E. Thompson