Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe: Elizabeth Taylor, AIDS Crusader

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

Elizabeth Taylor, AIDS Crusader

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Maybe you don’t remember what the early 1980s were like in AIDS history. The briefest timeline: July, 1981, the first New York Times mention of a strange illness affecting gay men; September, 1985, President Reagan finally mentioned AIDS publicly for the first time in response to a reporter’s question. There was no cure, only prevention and there was public squeamishness about using the words that could educate enough to save lives.

It was a time when landlords evicted sick tenants, when funeral homes refused to handle the bodies of those who had died of AIDS, and when hospitalized AIDS patients had their meal trays left on the floor outside their rooms. Each year brought frustratingly few answers and rising numbers of deaths.

In this atmosphere Elizabeth Taylor spoke out. She was brave, she was relentless. She raised money, she raised awareness. She appeared in public with AIDS patients, touching people who had been pronounced untouchable.

At the time I lived in New York and was a volunteer for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. It was a remarkable time. Among all the hateful things that happened, I also saw astounding courage. I knew people whose willingness to respond was nearly unimaginable. There were others I did not know personally whose humanity shone like a beacon in those dark times. I will never forget them. Elizabeth Taylor was one.

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2 Comments :

Blogger Mim said...

Thank you, Ellen, for remembering and giving credit.

March 23, 2011 at 7:11 PM  
Blogger Ellen Steinbaum said...

She deserved it.

March 24, 2011 at 3:27 PM  

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