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Matt Redman, who battled fear and prejudice as co-founder of AIDS Project Los Angeles, dies at 67

Matt Redman, a co-founder of one of the nation’s oldest AIDS service organizations and an early voice of activism in Los Angeles when the disease was first stoking fear and prejudice in America, has died. He was 67.

Redman and three others launched what would become AIDS Project Los Angeles in 1982 after attending an emergency meeting about something then known as Gay Related Immunodeficiency Disease, an early name for AIDS.

Armed with a single-page fact sheet, the four set up a hotline at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Center and took turns answering calls about the mysterious and deeply worrisome disease.

“In the early 1980s, the understanding and knowledge of AIDS was very limited,” said Ervin Munro, one of the four. “And much of the public viewed it strictly as a gay disease, so there was a negative and hostile attitude toward anything that had to do with establishing an agency about AIDS.”

Convinced that an education campaign was needed to fill the void, the four gathered friends and held a Christmas benefit that raised about $7,000. It was the beginning of an organization that would advocate for healthcare equality and well-being in the LGBT community.

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The group, and its services, grew at a rapid rate, much like the disease they confronted.

At the beginning of 1983, there were five clients. By the end of the year, there were 100. And then 200 midway through the next year. The organization distributed informational brochures in English and Spanish, printed safe-sex guides and launched a statewide awareness campaign — “Fight the Fear With the Facts.”

The group’s signature fundraiser emerged in 1985 — AIDS Walk Los Angeles. Organizers hoped to raise $100,000. Instead, the 4,500 walkers who participated raised nearly $700,000. The walk has since become a mainstay in L.A., raising roughly $80 million for Aids Project Los Angeles and other AIDS organization.

Redman was part of the group’s original board of directors and served as its chairman for two years beginning in 1987. The group reorganized last summer as APLA Health and now operates health centers in Baldwin Hills and Long Beach.

“Matt was one of the courageous few in Los Angeles who stepped up in the midst of the total devastation in the early days of the AIDS epidemic and demanded that we all do something,” said Craig E. Thompson, chief executive officer of APLA Health.

Matthew Harold Redman was born Nov. 19, 1949, in Washington, D.C., and earned degrees at the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University. After moving to Los Angeles in 1975, he worked in banking, real estate and interior design.

He died Dec. 27 of cardiopulmonary arrest.

Friends said he never strayed far from the battle against HIV, whether on a community or a person level.

“Matt was a warrior in his own health battles and in fighting for the welfare of the gay community in L.A., back when those in power wanted the whole AIDS thing just to go away,” said his brother Brian.

steve.marble@latimes.com

twitter.com/stephenmarble

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