Founded in 1983 by a group of dedicated volunteers, the Los Angeles Shanti Foundation, or LA Shanti, was the first group in Southern California to provide direct services to people with AIDS. This non-profit relief organization provided emotional support groups and services for those suffering from the effects of the AIDS/HIV crisis. With a particular emphasis on minority groups from socioeconomically troubled backgrounds and the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community, LA Shanti sought out the marginalized in a time of great confusion and tragedy. The name "shanti," which loosely translates from Sanskrit as "inner peace through understanding," emblematized the organization's mission: of providing a compassionate, accepting environment and support network for people with HIV/AIDS.
LA Shanti offered programs that targeted individuals suffering from the effects of HIV/AIDS, as well as the family, friends, and lovers who suffered by proxy. Some of the particular programs provided by LA Shanti included weekly on-going support groups for HIV-positive men and women, significant others, serodifferent couples, multiple loss, HIV-negative people, Spanish-language speakers, lesbians living with life-threatening Illness; one-to-one counseling opportunities; and monthly HIV forums. Education, in preventative as well as recuperative care, was also a central focus at LA Shanti.
Some staple LA Shanti events included Los Angeles Shanti Hug Day, a "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" benefit series, a wine tasting and auction series, anniversary celebrations, and the annual "Hug-A-Hunk" event series. Through the orchestrated efforts of physicians, caring volunteers, administrative workers, celebrities, and universities, LA Shanti possessed a $1.5 million annual budget, over 35 full-time staff and hundreds of volunteers at the peak of its activity.
LA Shanti ended its operations in 2006.
Source: Los Angeles Shanti Foundation Records, Coll2012-164, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries, University of Southern California