Dame Elizabeth Taylor will be missed. She was talented, respected, and inspirational from the time she was 10 years old to the time she retired at the age of 71 in 2003 her career spanned over 5 decades. Taylor, who will always be remembered for her role as Cleopatra However, within a smaller more devoted circle she will forever be remembered for her extraordinary efforts to help AIDS/HIV research develop.
When AIDS/HIV first appeared in the 1980s, the disease was stigmatized and fear was used to alienate anyone associated with it because there was so little known about it. As a result, treatments, compassion and understanding was scarce, if almost non-existent.
Elizabeth Taylor used her celebrity status to shed light and acknowledgment on the disease, Taylor's fight against AIDS/HIV came after her friend, co-star and film legend Rock Hudson was diagnosed with it in 1984. Her first attempt to get involved was to help the non-profit organization APLA (AIDS Project Los Angeles) with their first "Commitment to Life" event. By the end of the night, 1.3 million dollars was raised to benefit AIDS research.
The year after, Taylor co-founded (amfAR) the American Foundation for AIDS Research with Dr. Mathilde Krim, PH.D. and Dr. Michael S. Gottlieb. Since its creation, amfAR has produced several studies that have lead to remarkable life saving developments for people infected with the disease. The foundation has since raised over $400 million dollars.
In 2006, Taylor and her partnership with Macy's funded a "Care Van" in order to help people with AIDS in the afflicted area of New Orleans. She also donated $500,000 to the New Orleans AIDS Task Force.
Taylor's appearances were not restricted to charity and benefit events. Throughout her dedication to fighting and preventing AIDS, Taylor was photographed and seen in candle-light vigil ceremonies that were continuously held throughout the country for AIDS victims.
In 1993, Taylor was honored with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her efforts. Her acceptance speech spoke volumes not only of her cause, but for the importance of what it means to be human and to take care of one another - "Tonight I am asking for your help. I call upon you to draw from the depths of your being to prove that we are a human race. To prove that our love outweighs our need to hate. That our compassion is more compelling than our need to blame. That our sensitivity to those in need is stronger than our greed. That our ability to reason overcomes our fear. And that at the end of each of our lives, we can look back and be proud that we have treated others with the kindness, dignity and respect that every human being deserves. Thank you and God bless."
Dame Elizabeth Taylor will be remembered by many as an actress belonging to the silver screen but to others for the example she set in generating a better understanding for a unknown disease. Many fellow humanitarians survive her efforts in this field. Each fighting for a cure whilst alleviating the immediate effects stigmatising the infected have. The Elton John Aids Foundation is approaching its' 20th year of continuous support and will continue to honour the efforts of Dame Elizabeth Taylor until a cure is found made possible only with the support of benefactors like Rebecca Wang photographed with Sir Elton John at the 19th Annual Oscar Viewing Party in support of the Elton John Aids Foundation.
Celebrities have helped advance the issues of AIDS in a very specific and much-needed area. The stigma of AIDS in the 80's and 90's had a profound impact on AIDS sufferer's. Not only did they have to deal with news that they had a terminal illness, but perhaps more daunting was the inevitability that they would be shunned by society. Acting as a powerful public relations and communications tool in garnering decent treatment for AIDS/HIV sufferers. The message that Elizabeth Taylor, Elton John and Rebecca Wang convey can be unmatched in its power to elicit compassion and understanding from people who previously have shown only ignorance and cruelty.
Bob Geldof, known for his Live Aid concerts in 1985 also joined the fight in 2007 with the creation of the Chello Foundation. This is a charity that focuses specifically on advancing the education of orphans and children affected with HIV and AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa. The twice nominated Nobel Peace Prize Musician and political activist is well known for his anti-poverty efforts concerning Africa, AIDS being a significant factor.