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Elizabeth Taylor, Actress and AIDS Activist, Dies at 79

By Candace Y.A. Montague

March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor, a champion against AIDS. Photo: teenbiotechchallenge.ucdavis.edu.

Elizabeth Taylor, a champion against AIDS. Photo: teenbiotechchallenge.ucdavis.edu.

Hollywood fans mourn the loss of Elizabeth Taylor today. The actress was best known for her movie roles such as "Cleopatra" and for her multiple marriages. She was also known as a humanitarian which some might consider her most important role of all. The legendary star was well-known as a longtime AIDS activist who raised more than $50 million to fight HIV/AIDS through her foundation.

Ms.Taylor's impact on the AIDS community was felt here in Washington, DC. Whitman-Walker Clinic's main facility in Northwest was named after her in 1993. A statement issued by the clinic expressed sincere remorse and sympathy for the loss of Taylor.

"Elizabeth Taylor was the first major Hollywood star to take up the banner of HIV/AIDS activism. At a time when most Americans thought of HIV/AIDS as something that didn't affect them, her commitment to the issue and considerable star power helped to take the fight against HIV/AIDS right into the mainstream of American society. Her dedication to raising money along with awareness has helped to save countless lives both by helping to treat people living with the virus and by preventing new infections."

In 1984, Elizabeth Taylor organized the first AIDS fundraiser to benefit AIDS Project Los Angeles. This was the same year she learned that her longtime friend Rock Hudson had contracted the virus. She helped to start the American Foundation for AIDS Research( amFAR) and befriended an Indiana teen named Ryan White who contracted AIDS from contaminated blood. Her friendship with White along with several others, including Sir Elton John and MIchael Jackson, sparked enough action to create what is known today as the Ryan White Act. She earned numerous international awards and honors for the commitment she exhibited towards the fight against AIDS.

Elizabeth Taylor will be remembered not as just an actress but as a champion in the AIDS community.

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