Elizabeth Taylor addresses the United Nations in New York City on World AIDS Day 1996. (Photo: Reuters)
Elizabeth Taylor captured the public's attention as a rare beauty who wowed audiences on the big screen and titillated tabloid readers in supermarket aisles and living rooms. But it was her tireless work as an activist, and her dedication to using her immense worldwide fame to change lives, that is her bravest legacy.
Taylor was among the first celebrities to embrace the fight against HIV/AIDS, back when the disease was a terrifying mystery plague that seemed to be on an uncontainable killing spree. Taylor was the Founding International Chairman of amfAR, the American Foundation for AIDS Research. She went on to form her own organization, the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, in 1991.
Elizabeth Taylor testifies for increased funding to fight HIV/AIDS on Capitol Hill, May 1986. (Photo: Getty Images)
In total, Taylor raised more than $100 million for the fight against HIV/AIDS, and used her fame and Washington connections—one of her celebrated marriages was to former Virginia Senator John Warner—to testify on Capitol Hill to secure critical funding for patient treatment.
[We] mourn the passing of our beloved Founding International Chairman, Dame Elizabeth Taylor. Dame Elizabeth was without doubt one of the most inspirational figures in the fight against AIDS. She was among the first to speak out on behalf of people living with HIV when others reacted with fear and often outright hostility. For 25 years, Dame Elizabeth has been a passionate advocate of AIDS research, treatment and care. She has testified eloquently on Capitol Hill, while raising millions of dollars for amfAR. Dame Elizabeth’s compassion, radiance, and generosity of spirit will be greatly missed by us all. She leaves a monumental legacy that has improved and extended millions of lives and will enrich countless more for generations to come.
The organization released a moving tribute video highlighting Taylor's 25 years of activism and campaigning:
For those who want to honor Taylor's legacy and continue her work, here are a few simple ways to get involved:
Support the Scientists Fighting HIV:amfAR is one of the world's largest organizations dedicated to funding the "foot soldiers" on the frontlines of HIV and AIDS research, putting money into finding new and innovative treatments—and an eventual cure—for HIV and AIDS.
Help People Living With HIV and AIDS:The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation has donated more than $12 million to organizations helping prevent the spread of the disease. Its grants go to groups working directly to help patients and to those living with HIV and AIDS.
Join the Fight: Project (RED) is working to ensure that the first AIDS-free generation of babies is born in 2015. Current medical advancements mean that it's possible to end mother-to-child transmission of the disease. Join the campaign and support the companies that are helping fund the fight to protect the world's next generation.
Send a Message of Remembrance: Encourage others to follow Elizabeth Taylor's lead. Her friends at Elizabeth Arden have set up a Facebook page where you can leave your own message of condolence. You can also send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org. The messages will be displayed on this page.