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Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Activist Mourned By Non-Profit Leaders in Los Angeles

By Patrick Range McDonald

March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor's passing is mourned by HIV/AIDS activists in Los Angeles. Taylor had worked on the front lines of HIV/AIDS activism for decades, especially after the 1985 death of her longtime friend, movie star Rock Hudson.

"She was a singular champion for AIDS activism," Michael Weinstein, president of Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), tells L.A. Weekly. "She did it before it was fashionable. She spoke truth to power on a variety of issues, including chiding President Reagan for not saying the word AIDS and not funding work on AIDS."

Weinstein adds, "Her organization had no overhead, and it helped fund AHF and other organizations in Los Angeles. She was American royalty. For her to say something and show compassion, changed the game. Her passing is very, very sad for us. And she is irreplaceable in terms of her voice and work on AIDS."

For more on Taylor, read the L.A. Weekly obituary: "Elizabeth Taylor Dies at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles at 79: Her Children Were at Her Side."

Richard Zaldivar, president of The Wall-Las Memorias Project in Los Angeles, says, "The passing of Elizabeth Taylor is a great loss to our world and the AIDS movement. There will never be someone like her in the fight against AIDS.

"Elizabeth Taylor was the first great actress to fight on behalf of the AIDS movement and brought the illness from a taboo to a reality. She was the cause's leading advocate and became one of the world's most celebrated activists. She is leaving a great legacy for us all and a new challenge to fight AIDS for this new generation."

Craig Thompson, executive director of AIDS Project Los Angeles, says about Taylor, "She got involved very early on, in 1985. She was one of the first celebrities to get involved. She's best known to the public for her AIDS charity work. But what's lost on the public is her commitment to AIDS funding."

Thompson says Taylor was "instrumental" in getting the first federal government funding to fight HIV/AIDS. The actress also raised millions of dollars through her own organization, the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

"She was very compassionate and strategic about where she gave her funding," Thompson tells the Weekly, "and a lot of people were afraid to give funding to HIV/AIDS."

Oscar De La O, president of Los Angeles-based Bienestar, says, "There are many forms of beauty in this world, one of the purest forms manifests itself in compassion. Elizabeth Taylor embodied this compassion for communities impacted by AIDS like no other celebrity has embraced.

"Her grace and sophistication paved the way for countless efforts to assist in the plight against HIV infection and improving the quality of life for those already impacted by AIDS. Her strength and dedication for the cause served as both an example and source of inspiration for all of us.

"Elizabeth Taylor will be greatly missed for a presence like hers can never be replaced. We mourn her loss and simultaneously express our gratitude for the countless lives that have been enriched because of her efforts. May the spirit of her commitment continue to live on in each of us."

Margaret Steele, CEO of Project Angel Food in Los Angeles, says, "Project Angel Food is heartbroken over the loss of our beloved Elizabeth Taylor. We are now in our 22nd year of service and she was with us from our earliest days, making major grants from her foundation at pivotal times in our history of care and nourishment.

"Elizabeth Taylor was a beloved and powerful advocate in the fight against HIV/AIDS. When the HIV/AIDS epidemic erupted she was immediately fighting for treatment and care - and ensuring that people diagnosed with the disease were treated with dignity and respect.

"For someone of her stature to be at the forefront of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, when people diagnosed with the disease were social outcasts, is truly remarkable and will one of her many great legacies. She was a beacon of hope and love for the HIV/AIDS community and for that we will always be eternally grateful for her.

"She is already sorely missed, but we here at Project Angel Food will be honored to carry on our work of nourishing people struggling with HIV/AIDS, and know that she will be proud of us."

Through all of this work, Craig Thompson says about Taylor, "She was remarkably modest and humble. Whenever she was thanked, she would say, 'I should have done more.'"

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.