“It’s bad enough that people are dying of AIDS, but no one should die of ignorance.”
– Elizabeth Taylor
Elizabeth Taylor lived by her word. She used her star status to shine light on an issue that the rest of the world wanted desperately to keep in darkness—HIV and AIDS. The mid 1980’s were years of fear and ignorance. Patients were dying of some “modern plague,” doctors had no answers, and politicians turned their backs to save face. Taylor was the first and most prominent celebrity to give a public voice to a private disease when she stood by her friend, Rock Hudson, who was dying of AIDS. With her support, came attention and awareness.
Following Hudson’s death in 1985, Taylor became as much an AIDS activist as a movie star. She was the founding national chairman of amfAR, The American Foundation for AIDS Research, which has contributed almost $325 million to AIDS programs and research grants. She spoke out before congress, against discriminating laws and for increased funding. In 1991, Taylor founded the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, which focuses on patient care and prevention. She has covered every corner of the spectrum—from medical research, to legislation, to patient services—all while navigating a tumultuous, and very public, private life. Nearly every aspect of Taylor’s career has been scrutinized; yet 50 films, 70 years, and her role as an activist remains indisputable.
“AIDS is both my passion and my obsession,” Taylor said. “I was there at the beginning and I pray I’ll be there at the end.” Taylor died on Wednesday March 23rd, at age 79. We must continue to fight HIV/AIDS for Ms. Taylor and all those like her, who engaged in the battle when no one else would. We must finish what they started, in each and any way we can.