In the long run, glamorous movie star Elizabeth Taylor, who died from heart failure in March, may be better remembered for her work battling AIDS than for her Oscar-winning performances. Though she had seven husbands (and eight marriages), her real passion was activism. She dedicated decades of her life to battling HIV and the stigma attached to it. Here are some highlights of her philanthropy:
- Taylor has helped raise approximately $100 million to fight AIDS.
- In 1984, Taylor coordinated and hosted the first fundraiser for AIDS Project Los Angeles.
- Soon after her friend Rock Hudson died from AIDS-related causes in 1985, Taylor founded the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR). “I am on a crusade against AIDS and I’ll battle forever even after a cure is found,” she said at the time. “Making people aware of the disease, and comforting and embracing sufferers, has been my greatest role off screen.”
- Since its inception, amfAR has funded 2,000 HIV and AIDS research teams worldwide.
- Thirty years after she wowed the public with her Edith Head-designed gown at the 1969 Oscars, Taylor auctioned it off, netting $167,500 for amfAR.
- Taylor testified before Congress for the Ryan White bill in 1986. When the legislation was finally passed in 1993, it helped fund emergency AIDS care in needy areas.
- Ronald Reagan, heavily criticized for remaining mum on the subject of AIDS for much of his presidency, spoke at a 1987 amfAR fundraising dinner after Taylor invited him.
- Taylor founded the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation in 1991 to “focus on funding AIDS-based service organizations that deliver direct care to people with HIV and provide public education efforts,” according to the organization’s website. The ETAF has given grants to 311 HIV-related organizations.
- ETAF dispatched a $500,000 mobile medical unit to help HIV-positive New Orleanians affected by 2005’s devastating Hurricane Katrina.