"Taylor Was Early and Tireless AIDS/HIV Advocate"

By Sandy Cohen

March 23, 2011

The HIV/AIDS community is mourning Wednesday's passing of Elizabeth Taylor, who was as well known for her work on the epidemic as she was for her acting.

Taylor co-founded the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), which has funneled more than $300 million toward related research. In 1991, the actress started the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, which has distributed more than $12 million to US organizations that provide direct care and services to people with AIDS.

"She was profoundly instrumental in helping us identify the resources which have led to the research that has improved and extended the lives of those with HIV and AIDS," said Kevin Robert Frost, CEO of amfAR.

"There have been a lot of incredible warriors in the fight, but she will stand for history on a podium above everyone else," said Craig Thompson, executive director of AIDS Project Los Angeles, a group that benefited from Taylor's early support.

When Taylor came to Capitol Hill in the early 1990s to testify about AIDS, "Every senator showed up," Thompson said. "Because Elizabeth Taylor was talking about it, people like my mother were reading about HIV and AIDS."

"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," said Don Blanchon, head of the D.C.-based Whitman-Walker Clinic, which named its central facility after Taylor.

"She earned our adoration for her stunning beauty and for being the very essence of glamorous movie stardom," said AIDS advocate and entertainer Elton John. "And she earned our enduring love and respect for her compassion and her courage in standing up and speaking out about AIDS when others preferred to bury their heads in the sand."