Elizabeth Taylor's AIDS Fight: A Look Back

Elizabeth Taylor attends amfAR's "Cinema Against AIDS" benefit during the 56th International Cannes Film Festival 2003 in Cannes, France on May 22, 2003 -- Getty Images

Elizabeth Taylor dedicated much of her life to the fight against HIV & AIDS, becoming a voice for those affected by the epidemic - something she considered to be her most important role.

"AIDS is real life and it's life and death and we have to get out there and fight it," Elizabeth said in an interview on CNN's "Larry King Live" in 2006.

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The late actress was the first star to publicly address the HIV/AIDS crisis during the 1980's. Her tireless work saved countless lives through her laser like focus in the realms of education and fundraising. The actress' fight began when she discovered that close friend Rock Hudson had been diagnosed.

"We didn't talk about [Rock] having AIDS, except I asked him once if it hurt," she told Larry in their 2006 interview.

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Hudson's stunning AIDS announcement in 1985 convinced Elizabeth that she couldn't watch from the sidelines any longer.

After working with AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), Taylor helped co-found the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) in 1985, which mourned Taylor's death on Wednesday.

"The board of trustees and staff of amfAR mourn the passing of our beloved Founding International Chairman, Dame Elizabeth Taylor. Dame Elizabeth was without doubt one of the most inspirational figures in the fight against AIDS. She was among the first to speak out on behalf of people living with HIV when others reacted with fear and often outright hostility," the organization said in statement. "For 25 years, Dame Elizabeth has been a passionate advocate of AIDS research, treatment and care. She has testified eloquently on Capitol Hill, while raising millions of dollars for amfAR. Dame Elizabeth's compassion, radiance, and generosity of spirit will be greatly missed by us all. She leaves a monumental legacy that has improved and extended millions of lives and will enrich countless more for generations to come."

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Elton John AIDS Foundation Chairman David Furnish also released a statement regarding her work on Wednesday.

"In the early days of the AIDS epidemic, Elizabeth Taylor was a force of nature. She compelled people to listen, made them respond, and urged them to act. 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," Furnish said.

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Through the years, Taylor remained outspoken about the epidemic, even calling out politicians and leaders on the issue.

"[President Clinton has] disappointed me. He's had the opportunity to turn around the government and come forward and help, like he said he would at the beginning. He hasn't. He's waffled," the actress said in a POZ magazine interview with writer Kevin Sessums in 1997.

She also spoke out about the need to take the fight international, telling the mag, "The United States is not the only nation that is suffering with AIDS. But Americans are very chauvinistic. I was brought up internationally. I've traveled worldwide. I helped people in Africa years ago. I've always though more globally."

In 2003, the actress told Access Hollywood that she was now focusing all of her efforts on the fight against the disease.

"I have dedicated my life now to AIDS. I have retired from acting. It doesn't interest me anymore it seems kind of superficial," she told Access at a 2003 amfAR event.

Along with the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, which she started in 1991, amfAR has raised over 300 million dollars for the fight against HIV/AIDS.

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