Elizabeth Taylor, one of film's most iconic actresses, passed away today in Los Angeles at the age of 79. You may never have seen her star in classics like Cleopatra and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, but she's well worth knowing for her contributions to society.
Taylor was one of the earliest HIV/AIDS activists. After watching her close friend, movie star Rock Hudson, die from the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, Elizabeth Taylor was one of the first courageous enough to step forward on behalf of HIV/AIDS research.
She started off by fundraising for an AIDS Project Los Angeles event called Commitment to Life, helping make the first major AIDS benefit a success. She was also the Founding International Chairman of the American Foundation for AIDS Research.
Elizabeth Taylor testified before Congress to support the Ryan White CARE Act, a law inspired by a teen who contracted HIV through an untested blood transfusion. The bill ultimately became a law and helped fund HIV care for low-income Americans. The actress also made public appearances to support her cause. In 1989 she was photographed shaking hands with an HIV/AIDS patient in Thailand, helping break down the fear of touching someone with the virus.
By the 1990s, Elizabeth Taylor had established The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF), an organization that provides direct care, education, and monetary support for the fight against HIV and AIDS. According to the ETAF website, each recipient foundation was personally reviewed by Taylor.
"Celebrity is not something that comes without responsibility," Taylor said of her activism. "If I can help further a worthwhile cause simply by lending my voice, I feel that it is my place to do so."
You can keep Elizabeth Taylor's memory alive by leaving a word of condolence on her Facebook Tribute Page, teaching others about HIV transmission, or applying for a grant that supports a social issue like HIV/AIDS education or prevention.