Movie legend Elizabeth Taylor has died Wednesday morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, from complications of congestive heart failure. She may be remembered by some for her eight marriages or her savvy business sense; or even her roles in classic films like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Taylor was also known as a tireless advocate for HIV/AIDS-related causes.
The world may be saddened by her passing, but it was her strength and dedication to fight for something that many celebrities ran away from. Her influence was strong in the HIV/AIDS research, and community services. Locally, the Whitman-Walker Clinic’s (WWC) main clinic in D.C. is named after Taylor, and is planning a remembrance in honor of her.
If you’ve ever been on 14th Street, NW, then, chances are you have driven, walked, ran, or rode by the clinic. One returning citizen who uses the services at WCC and is sad to hear of Taylor’s death.
“I have HIV, which I believe I got while having unprotected sex in prison,” he said. “If not for the efforts of Whitman Walker, I think I’d be dead by now.”
D.C. City Councilman and former WCC director Jim Graham said on NBC’s mid-day news that Taylor was very active towards HIV/AIDS. “I had the pleasure to meet her some years ago. It was just three of us in her home,” he said, “and I was marveled at how intelligent and well-spoken she was.”
Whitman-Walker executive director Don Blanchon said, “Her dedication to the cause led her to be her personally for the dedication. That kind of commitment exemplifies why she was so important in the early days of the fight against HIV/AID.,”
The Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation is one of Whitman-Walker’s longtime supporters, and the foundation is asking for donations in Taylor’s in memory at its website.
“Rather than sending flowers,” her son said on the Today Show, “we’d rather that people make a donation to the Elizabeth Taylor Foundation or any organization that’s aiding in HIV/AIDS research.”
Blanchon added that the clinic would make sure Elizabeth Taylor is remembered not just for her career but for her unwavering support for a community and a cause that, in the early days, many would not touch.
Whitman-Walker Clinic is the largest nongovernmental HIV/AIDS health care organization in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, and is named after gay poet Walt Whitman (a former D.C. resident) and noted Civil War-era physician and women’s rights activist Dr. Mary Edwards Walker. It was founded as a health center for the gay and lesbian community in 1978; Whitman-Walker was one of the first responders to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in DC and became a leader in HIV/AIDS education, prevention, diagnosis and treatment. In recent years, Whitman-Walker has expanded its services to include health care for the entire community regardless of HIV status, sexual orientation or gender identity.
Taylor was seventy-nine (79).