March 23, 2011
It's impossible to overstate the impact Elizabeth Taylor has had on HIV/AIDS awareness and funding since the earliest days of the epidemic (Ms. Taylor died earlier today).
Since the early 1980s, when people were still wearing masks and gloves around AIDS patients, Ms. Taylor (Elizabeth to her friends, never Liz) has been at the forefront. She organized the very first "commitment to Life" event in 1984 for AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) -- and while doing so, learned her friend Rock Hudson was dying of the disease. She co-founded the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) in 1985, and her own Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation in 1993.
Oh yeah. And she was an Oscar winning movie star, the likes of which we may never see again.
I watched her walk onstage, in evident pain from chronic back problems, at an APLA event in the late 1980s in Los Angeles. "With every breath of my being," I remember her saying, "I will fight this disease and for the rights of people with AIDS, until the day I die." And that, my friends, is exactly what she did.