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In Memoriam Matt Redman, Co-Founder of
AIDS Project Los Angeles

matt-redman-at-light-a-candle-for-life-march-1983

 

Update: Matt Redman’s family and friends are hosting a memorial service Sunday, February 19, from 3-5 p.m. at the West Hollywood City Council Chambers (625 N. San Vicente Blvd. in West Hollywood). The program will be informal and will feature a handful of speakers. All are welcome.

APLA Health mourns the death of Matt Redman, one of the co-founders of AIDS Project Los Angeles. Matt was instrumental in spurring the Los Angeles community to action during the early days of the AIDS epidemic and continuing the fight against HIV over the last 34 years. He was a committed activist, known for his strong personality, biting wit, and passion for details. He passed away on December 27, 2016, at age 67.

In October 1982, Matt and his close friend Nancy Cole Sawaya, along with Ervin Munro and Max Drew, attended an emergency meeting at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center. The meeting featured a presentation by a representative from San Francisco’s Kaposi’s Sarcoma Foundation about Gay Related Immunodeficiency Disease (GRID), one of the early names for AIDS.

Fear about this mysterious new disease was rampant, so the four set up a telephone hotline to answer questions from the community. The hotline was operated from a closet in the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center, where volunteers answered a single telephone and read information from a one-page fact sheet.

Realizing that funds were needed to educate the community and prevent the spread of the disease, the co-founders enlisted the help of other friends and held a Christmas benefit. The party raised more than $7,000, which became the seed money for a new organization. Recognizing that AIDS was not just a gay disease, the founders named the organization AIDS Project Los Angeles. The first board of directors was elected on January 14, 1983.

Matt remained deeply involved with APLA after its founding, volunteering and serving as chair of the board of directors from 1987 to 1989. He continued to serve on the board for several years after stepping down as chair, and remained an honorary member after his initial board tenure ended.

In addition, when APLA was a founding member of the Federation of AIDS-Related Organizations—later the AIDS Action Council—Matt was APLA’s representative and served on its board for six years. Today, the AIDS Action Council continues as AIDS United, and APLA Health is a leading member. “Matt never lost his interest and enthusiasm for advocacy and policy,” APLA Health Director of Government Affairs Phil Curtis notes. “You could always count on him to ask just the right question, to push where the argument needed to go. And with his long institutional memory and very personal experience with HIV, his input was always fierce, heartfelt, and invaluable.”

Matt worked as an interior designer for many years, but his commitment to HIV/AIDS causes remained a prominent part of his life. In June 2015, he was honored by the Los Angeles City Council during the fifth annual LGBT Heritage Month, which recognizes LGBT activists, advocates, and pioneers for their work to advance equality.

“Matt was one of the courageous few in Los Angeles who stepped up in the midst of the total devastation of the early days of the AIDS epidemic and demanded that we all do something,” APLA Health CEO Craig E. Thompson says. “With his close friend Nancy Cole Sawaya and a handful of others, he founded AIDS Project Los Angeles, changing the lives of countless individuals as a result. He never gave up, never did anything at less than 100%, and he never stepped away.  He was a relentless voice on our board of directors for the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS and was literally our conscience for more than 30 years. Only when his strength began to fade as he lost his personal battle with HIV did he pull back. Matt was one of a kind, a dear friend, a tireless advocate, and our champion. To say he’ll be missed is an understatement.”

To Matt’s friends and family, APLA Health extends its deepest condolences on the loss of a tireless champion for people living with HIV/AIDS and the LGBT community. His efforts helped change the course of history and ensured that many lives were made better and saved.

If you would like to make a gift in memory of Matt, we will gladly designate it toward his memorial fund. Visit aplahealth.org/donate and click yes when asked, “Is this gift in honor or in memory of a friend or loved one?” Enter “Matt Redman” in the honoree name field. We’ll be sure to notify the Redman family.

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APLA Health’s mission is to achieve health care equity and promote well-being for the LGBT and other underserved
communities and people living with and affected by HIV. We are a nonprofit, federally qualified health center
serving more than 14,000 people annually. We provide 20 different services from 15 locations throughout Los
Angeles County, including: medical, dental, and behavioral health care; PrEP counseling and management; health
education and HIV prevention; and STD screening and treatment. For people living with HIV, we offer housing
support; benefits counseling; home health care; and the Vance North Necessities of Life Program food pantries;
among several other critically needed services. Additionally, we are leaders in advocating for policy and legislation
that positively impacts the LGBT and HIV communities, provide capacity-building assistance to health departments
across the country, and conduct community-based research on issues affecting the communities we serve. For
more information, please visit us at aplahealth.org.