SEATTLE — August 29th, 2018 marked the 60th birthday of the late, great King of Pop, Michael Jackson. A celebration of this event, entitled ‘The Diamond Celebration,’ took place at The Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas after a special performance of the Cirque Du Soleil show ‘One’. Prior to the celebration, The Michael Jackson Estate announced a partnership with an organization known as The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF) for the event in order to honor Michael Jackson’s humanitarian legacy.
While most Jackson fans know of his strong friendship with the late actress Elizabeth Taylor, many might not know of her daring humanitarian work. Indeed, much later in her life, the actress became a strong voice in the fight against AIDS. Taylor educated the world, testified before Congress on behalf of Ryan White and encouraged communities to mobilize against the disease, long before even talking about the disease became socially acceptable.
Though she passed away on March 23, 2011, Elizabeth Taylor’s legacy of fighting AIDS will continue not just in the U.S., but also around the world, in countries such as Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Uganda and India.
Top 10 facts about The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation
- Elizabeth Taylor founded the organization in 1991. She used the $1,000,000 that she raised selling the photos of her wedding with Larry Fortensky to People magazine and other news outlets around the world as the ‘seed money’. The wedding itself took place at Michael Jackson’s own Neverland Ranch.
- In the beginning, the foundation operated with zero overhead cost, as Taylor took on these costs herself. Even though the actress herself has passed away, she had the foresight to arrange matters so that her trust would continue funding the operating costs in her place.
- The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation’s primary focus is providing funding to organizations that “help prevent the spread of HIV and to provide direct care and assistance to those affected by the virus”. This includes organizations that help with spreading awareness and educating the public about the disease.
- The foundation also sponsors awards that “recognize outspoken individuals making extraordinary contributions to furthering [ETAF’s] legacy”. These include the Elizabeth Taylor Legacy Award, the Elizabeth Taylor Legislative Leadership Award, and the Elizabeth Taylor Human Rights Award.
- Ambassadors to the organization include celebrities such as Whoopi Goldberg, Paris Jackson (Michael Jackson’s daughter) and Colin Farrell, as well as many of Elizabeth Taylor’s own grandchildren. These ambassadors appear at congressional hearings as well as other events where they can advocate for AIDS awareness and support.
- Many notable organizations have partnered with the ETAF, including The Elton John AIDS Foundation, The Aileen Getty Foundation, The Global AIDS Interface Alliance, STOPAIDS and #GENENDIT.
- As of 2013, more than $17 million had been granted to 675 organizations in 44 countries along with 42 U.S. States. Taylor’s family has not stopped there. Along with the foundation’s ambassadors, ETAF continues to raise money to further its efforts around the world.
- Since 2008, ETAF has provided the funding for AIDS health services in the African country of Malawi through their partner, The Global AIDS Interface Alliance (GAIA). These health services treat and test for a variety of serious and sometimes deadly illnesses.
- In 2015, ETAF set out to promote the creation of more stories featuring characters living with HIV/AIDS in the mainstream media, partnering with GLAAD and AIDS United. This includes stories in the news as well as on film and in television.
- ETAF also sponsors an annual event known as AIDSWatch. During this event, hundreds of people living with HIV/AIDS join with their allies to meet with members of Congress and talk to them about the many issues surrounding AIDS and how they can help.
Elizabeth Taylor spoke up about AIDS when no one else would, risking her reputation and career to stand up for a cause she knew mattered. If she had not advocated for the truth and the need to help those afflicted with AIDS, those affected by the disease might not have the support that they do today. Awareness and support of HIV/AIDS have become stronger and will continue to grow thanks to her efforts.
– Elizabeth Frerking