In the three decades of the HIV epidemic, many celebrities have lent their talents and support to help raise awareness and to help those who have the virus. But there are a few people who will forever stand out as the icons of HIV activism. Through their passion, commitment and support, these people have used their star power to impact the lives of millions living with HIV and will forever be remembered for their efforts to fight AIDS.
The Material Girl was anything but that when she first lent her support to HIV patients in a time when most people treated a person with AIDS like a pariah. Madonna’s dance teacher was HIV-positive and when he publically divulged that he had the virus, the two appeared together at a 1989 Dance-a-Thon to support AIDS Project LA. Her support early on, during the height the HIV epidemic, even led people to believe Madonna was HIV-positive. The rumors didn’t stop her then and they certainly aren’t stopping her now as she works with her organization, Raising Malawi, and continues to advocate for those who live with HIV in Africa and around the world.
Dame Elizabeth Taylor is a cinematic legend. But when the film phenom began her humanitarian work in the fight against HIV and AIDS in the 1980s, she became a global icon of activism. When Taylor was asked why she became involved so early on, this is what she said:
“I kept seeing all these news reports on this new disease and kept asking myself why no one was doing anything. And then I realized that I was just like them. I wasn’t doing anything to help.”
In 1985, Elizabeth Taylor joined with a group of doctors and scientists to form the American Foundation for AIDS Research, or what is now commonly known as amfAR. Today, she is remembered as much for the magnanimous impact she had on so many livesthrough her activism as she is for burning up the screen with her beauty and talent.
The U2 front man and rock legend founded the (RED) Foundation in 2006 with Bobby Shriver to engage millions of people from around the world in the fight against HIV and AIDS in Africa, home to an estimated two-thirds of the world’s HIV-positive population. Bono used his global appeal to tap into the private sector by working with major brands to create a steady flow of corporate giving into the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Since his foundation's inception, it has generated over $300 million for the Global Fund, which goes directly to finance HIV and AIDS programs in Africa.