APLA Health

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APLA Health
APLA Health official logo.jpg
FoundersMax Drew, Nancy Cole Sawaya, Matt Redman and Erv Munro
Focus"to achieve health care equity and promote well-being for the LGBT and other underserved communities and people living with and affected by HIV."
OriginsLos Angeles
Area served
United States
Key people
Craig E. Thompson, Chief Executive Officer

APLA Health is non-profit organization, whose 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." [1]

APLA Health is one of the largest non-profit HIV service organizations in the United States.[2] Its activities include improving access to care; providing exceptional, cost-effective, and culturally competent care; growing the number of people they serve; and partnering with other organizations to ensure the delivery of comprehensive services to promote health and wellness in the populations they serve.[3]

The organization was founded as AIDS Project Los Angeles in 1983 by Max Drew, Nancy Cole Sawaya, Matt Redman and Erv Munro with the financial support of their community of friends and family.[4] On July 28, 1985, APLA held the world's first AIDS Walk, which brought in $673,000. The Walk is now the largest HIV/AIDS fundraiser in Southern California.[5] In 2011, APLA opened a second 501(c)(3) organization, APLA Health & Wellness, to provide HIV prevention services, economic development programs and social activities for gay and bisexual men and transgender individuals of color, and began offering medical services in 2013. In 2016, AIDS Project Los Angeles and APLA Health & Wellness began doing business collectively as APLA Health.

Among the services provided by the organization are primary medical, dental and behavioral health care, housing, case management, nutritional health, treatment adherence, and home health. APLA Health operates eight Vance North Necessities of Life Program (NOLP) food pantry locations around Los Angeles and collaborates with five other organizations to provide food pantry services across the United States, effectively running the nation's largest network of food pantries for persons living with HIV/AIDS.[6]


APLA Health has four founders—Max Drew, Nancy Cole Sawaya, Matt Redman and Erv Munro. In December 1982, they held the first APLA Health fundraiser, which raised over $7,000. Many early fundraising events were held in gay bars and discos, as the gay and lesbian community mobilized to fight the disease. A fundraiser at Studio One in March 1984, featuring Joan Rivers, raised $45,000 for APLA Health and other new AIDS service organizations.

On July 28, 1985, APLA Health (then AIDS Project Los Angeles) held the world's first AIDS Walk. The Walk is now the largest HIV/AIDS fundraiser in Southern California. Days before the first AIDS Walk, movie star Rock Hudson disclosed to the world that he had AIDS, which led to thousands of walkers raising more than $673,000. In response, Elizabeth Taylor helped to spearhead a drive by the entertainment community to confront the disease and created the first Commitment to Life event. The event, held at the Bonaventure Hotel, honored former First Lady Betty Ford and raised $1.3 million. The Commitment to Life benefits, much like the AIDS Walks, became a major annual event until the last event in the early 2000s.

Programs and Services[edit]

In 2013, APLA Health opened its first health center, the Gleicher/Chen Health Center, in the Baldwin Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles. This was followed by the Long Beach Health Center in 2016 and APLA Health – Olympic in 2018. As an FQHC, APLA Health serves those most in need – people who are uninsured, under-insured, or cannot find a care team who understands them, their community, gender identity or sexuality. In addition, APLA Health supports low-income people with critical HIV Access services.

APLA Health’s HIV prevention strategy is a shift in thinking from an era when fear was the primary motivation behind most prevention services. Its focus is on positive community building and individual responsibility with support groups and one-on-one intervention. The HIV prevention services are designed to support those communities in Los Angeles County who experience a disproportionate share of new HIV infections; including men who have sex with men (MSM), men of color and transgender women.

Since its founding in 1983, APLA Health has been a vocal advocate in breaking down the stigma attached to HIV and AIDS – both within communities’ perceptions and legislative policy. APLA Health was a co-sponsor of SB 159 expanding PrEP and PEP access through pharmacies, SB 1021 to prevent price gouging patients, and SB 239 that modernized California’s HIV laws.

Summary of Programs and Services

  • Primary Care
  • HIV Specialty Care
  • Dental care
  • Mental health services
  • Substance abuse counseling
  • HIV Prevention Services
  • Vance North Necessities of Life Food Pantry
  • Housing Support Services
  • Care Coordination Services
  • Advocacy
  • Nutrition Counseling
  • Insurance Enrollment
  • Benefits Counseling
  • Home Health Care
  • Health Education
  • Community-Based Research

Global HIV/AIDS Advocacy[edit]

M-Pact Global Action for Gay Men’s Health and Rights (formerly the Global Forum for Men who Have Sex With Men) was founded in 2006 at the Toronto International AIDS Conference by an international group of activists – including APLA Health (then AIDS Project Los Angeles) - concerned about the disproportionate HIV disease burden being shouldered by gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) worldwide. The silence at that time about the toll HIV was taking on gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men was deeply troubling to many community members and advocates working at the frontlines.

M-Pact’s mission is to advocate for equitable access to effective HIV prevention, care, treatment, and support services for gay men and bisexual men, including those living with HIV, while promoting their health and human rights worldwide.

M-Pact is directly linked with more than 120 community-based organizations across 62 countries. Previously, M-Pact has worked in the following countries: Armenia, Barbados, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Ghana, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, South Africa, Surinam, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Tonga, Tunisia, Uganda, Ukraine, United States, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. Community-Based Research The Community-Based Research (CBR) unit at APLA Health provides culturally, linguistically and gender-appropriate research designed to improve services to people, communities and institutions affected by HIV/AIDS. The program also serves as a resource to other organizations conducting community-based research.

Applied research conducted by APLA Health's CBR team addresses topics including: sexual risk and health behaviors; HIV/AIDS treatment education; Medicare policy; substance use; social and cultural factors shaping HIV risk for gay men of color; health disparities; and social stigma and discrimination. Study findings are used by APLA Health to develop new services, improve existing ones and highlight trends in the field. APLA Health CBR findings have been presented at local, statewide, national and international levels.


  1. ^ "APLA Health Mission & Strategic Plan". Retrieved 2016-10-27.
  2. ^ "HIV/AIDS in the U.S.: The Basics". Archived from the original on 4 August 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-23.
  3. ^ "APLA Health Mission & Strategic Plan". Retrieved 2016-10-27.
  4. ^ "APLA Health History". Retrieved 2016-10-27.
  5. ^ "About AIDS Walk Los Angeles". Retrieved 2010-10-27.
  6. ^ "NOLP Food Pantries & Nutrition". Retrieved 2016-10-27.

External links[edit]