US AIDS group mourns 'passionate advocate' Taylor

Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor, who died Wednesday at age 79, leaves a "monumental legacy" of support for AIDS research, having touched millions with her commitment to help end the epidemic, a group she helped found said.

"Dame Elizabeth was without doubt one of the most inspirational figures in the fight against AIDS," the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) said in a statement hours after the death of the star-turned-activist, who was the founding international chairwoman of the organization.

"She leaves a monumental legacy that has improved and extended millions of lives and will enrich countless more for generations to come."

AmfAR and other groups were quick to hail Taylor's compassion for people living with AIDS, particularly in the late 1980s when many around the world were still terrified about the prospect of contracting HIV, the virus which causes AIDS.

No celebrity except perhaps Princess Diana has been so singularly involved in raising funds for AIDS research or working to dispel the stigma that to a lesser degree still surrounds the tens of millions living with the disease worldwide.

Taylor, said amfAR, "was among the first to speak out on behalf of people living with HIV when others reacted with fear and often outright hostility."

AmfAR was founded in 1985, the same year that Taylor's fellow Hollywood giant and close friend Rock Hudson died of complications from AIDS.

Taylor, a two-time Oscar winner for starring roles in "Butterfield 8" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," started the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation in 1991.

The following year the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented her with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her contribution to the cause of AIDS research.

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