Elizabeth Taylor will be forever remembered for many things. Her tireless fight against HIV/AIDS is legendary.
She famously cofounded the American Foundation of AIDS Research, commonly known as amfAR.
She reached out when no one did…
Fashion designer Kenneth Cole first met Taylor about 25 years ago at an amfAR board meeting in Los Angeles. "She was very expressive and articulate and passionate about it," says Cole, amfAR's chairman of the board since 2006. "She just didn't understand why everyone else wasn't.
"This was early on," he continued. "This was a time when people were fearful and distant and because as we know Ronald Reagan didn't mention the word AIDS publicly until 1987 after 40,000 people had already died."
Taylor's activism included congressional hearings, protests and rallies. She even posed on a cover of Vanity Fair in 1992 with a condom in her hand.
"She was a relentless crusader and pioneer," Cole said.
Sir Elton John agrees: "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," the singer said in a statement today.
John's husband and chairman of Elton John AIDS Foundation, David Furnish, calls Taylor a "force of nature": "She compelled people to listen, made them respond, and urged them to act," he said. "She gave comfort to the dying, roundly condemned the stigma associated with AIDS, and was fiercely critical of the government's sluggish, reluctant response to the epidemic."
Or, as Taylor herself once said, "So many people were frightened and doing so little about it. The silence was thunderous and the only way to stop that is to speak out."
And for that, the world is a much better place.