Elizabeth Taylor: AIDS Activist

In 1987, Elizabeth Taylor spoke directly to the Post about her final, most passionate role: bringing HIV to the forefront of American conversation.

Elizabeth Taylor by Lucian Lupinski
Artist Lucian Lupinski painted this portrait of Taylor for the Post's AIDS issue in 1987.

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By the time Elizabeth Taylor made her last appearance in the Post, she was no longer known just for her screen roles—or her myriad marriages. She’d founded AmfAR, the American Foundation for AIDS Research. It was this role that, many say, truly fulfilled her. In 1987, she spoke directly to the Post’s Holly G. Miller about her activism.

Post: What prompted your interests and efforts on behalf of AIDS?

Taylor: First, I became aware of the fact that there was a new and very serious disease that was destroying many young people in the arts community at the very prime of their lives. Second, I had a strong sense of compassion for these people for whom literally nothing could be done. And finally, I was outraged that nothing was happening, that no one seemed to care—and then I realized that if I didn’t  become involved, I had no one to blame but myself.

In addition to becoming personally involved, she engaged President Reagan in the battle against AIDS, and made sure that, in the final years of his presidency, HIV remained on his agenda. In doing so, she brought the formerly shunned disease into America’s mainstream political discussion.

Post: If you could bring one message to the American people about AIDS, what would it be?

Taylor: We are in this together! As President Reagan has said, “AIDS affects all of us”—as he said, “AIDS calls for urgency, not panic—compassion, not blame—understanding, not ignorance.”

Post: How have you gone about your fund-raising efforts?

Taylor: By talking about the importance of this issue, by reaching out to encourage the involvement of friends, by challenging our leaders and others to be involved, by setting up the American Foundation for AIDS Research, and by personal appeals and appearances on behalf of this issue.

Over the course of her 70-year career, Taylor entertained us, dazzled us, and, in the end, did her best to take care of us.

See also: Elizabeth Taylor, Leading Lady of the Sixties

Donate to AmfAR today at www.amfar.org.

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  1. Elizabeth Taylor was as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside. We must always remember her fine humanitarian works. It’s easy to overlook because of her fine movie work and stunning beauty.

    Now, on the one-year anniversary of her passing, is a good time to honor her memory by reflecting on her selflessness and seeing if we can’t do that more in our own lives.


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