In 1986 and again in 1988, hundreds of thousands of Californians signed petitions to place initiatives on the ballot that would have mandated the quarantine of AIDS patients.
Such was the homophobic hysteria surrounding AIDS when Elizabeth Taylor began planning her first AIDS fundraiser. Taylor remembered the reactions:
Taylor was a prodigious fundraiser and made large personal contributions to the cause. ETAF operated at zero overhead cost because Taylor personally underwrote the organization’s expenses for raising and administering funds. Over the course of her lifetime, she is said to have raised $270 million for HIV/AIDS. Last month, it was reported that she had donated the bulk of her estate to her AIDS charities.
An impassioned lobbyist, Taylor was not afraid of taking a swipe at leaders for their inaction. At an international AIDS conference, she criticized the first president Bush, remarking, “I don't think [he] is doing anything at all about AIDS. In fact I'm not even sure if he knows how to spell AIDS.” She testified before Congress in 1986 in support of the Ryan White Act, and then again in 1990, when it finally passed. She also spoke at the United Nations, imploring its members to join in the fight against the disease.
Taylor carried on her work despite her own declining health. Toward the end of her life she said, "There's still so much more to do. I can't sit back and be complacent, and none of us should be. I get around now in a wheelchair, but I get around."
Now that I have learned more about Taylor's contributions, my respect for her has turned into awe. Rest in peace, Dame Elizabeth.