Dame Elizabeth Taylor was a one-of-a-kind woman who possessed an exotic beauty. She was a talented hardworking actress from the time she was 10 years old to the time she officially retired at the age of 71 in 2003. Her career spanned over 5 decades and remained strong throughout the scandals and marriages from which she always be remembered for. However, amongst those events, Taylor will also be remembered for her extraordinary humanitarian efforts to help AIDS/HIV research in hopes of finding a cure.
When AIDS/HIV first appeared in the 1980s, the disease was stigmatized and used as a weapon to send people into fear because there was little known about it. As a result, treatment and most of all compassion and understand was scarce, if almost non-existent. Taylor believed her celebrity could be used to shed light and acknowledgment on the disease, "I could take the fame I'd resented and tried to get away from for so many years and use it to do some good."
Taylor's advocacy for the fight against AIDS/HIV came after her close friend, co-star and film legend Rock Hudson was diagnosed in 1984. As her first step towards becoming an AIDS activist, Taylor helped the non-profit organization APLA (AIDS Project Los Angeles) with their first "Commitment to Life" event which was Hudson's final public appearance. By the end of the night, 1.3 million dollars was raised to benefit AIDS research.
The following year, 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 have produced studies that have lead to remarkable live-saving developments for people who have been infected with disease. The foundation has also launched international programs including their TREAT Asia program which delivers AIDS/HIV treatment to Asia. The foundation has since raised over $400 million dollars.
In 2006, when the city of New Orleans, Louisiana was struck by Hurricane Katrina, Taylor and her partnership with Macy's was able to fund a "Care Van" in order to help people with AIDS in the afflicted area. She also donated $500,000 to the New Orleans AIDS Task Force.
But 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 humanitarian 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 not just because she was beautiful or because she was an actress belonging to classic Hollywood, but because she was a fine example of a human being. It will be through her efforts that future generations will be able to live and be inspired by her life.