"She received death threats," close friend Kathy Ireland says of the late actress' purported underground network for HIV care and treatment

By Jodi Guglielmi
Updated December 03, 2015 01:20 PM
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Elizabeth Taylor wanted to help save lives – even if that meant running a Dallas Buyers Club-style underground network.

According to the late actress’ close friend Kathy Ireland, Taylor used her Bel Air home to get experimental HIV drugs to patients during a time when the growing epidemic was receiving little attention from the government.

“Talk about fearless – at her home in Bel Air,” Ireland told Entertainment Tonight. “It was a safe house. A lot of the work that she did, it was illegal, but she was saving lives.”

Ireland said that even when those closest to Taylor begged her to shut down her self-made treatment center, she refused, believing that the work she was doing was simply too important.

“She said her business associate pleaded with her, ‘Leave this thing alone.’ She received death threats. Friends hung up on her when she asked for help,” Ireland added. “But something that I love about Elizabeth is her courage.”

Despite Taylor’s death in 2011, her ongoing fight to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS has become her lasting legacy. Even before the death of Taylor’s close friend Rock Hudson of AIDS-related causes in 1985, she was one of the first celebrities to sound the alarm about the disease. Hudson’s death further galvanized her efforts, and she eventually launched The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation in 1991.

In honor of World AIDS Day and Taylor’s legacy of activism, her grandson Tarquin Wilding united with Nelson Mandela‘s grandson Kweku Amuah to speak about the importance of HIV/AIDS awareness, and what it means to “carry the torch” for a generation of advocates.

“My grandfather and your beautiful grandmother started making sure we could kill the stigma around HIV and AIDS,” Amuah said.

Reflecting on Taylor’s work, Wilding praised his grandmother for giving “her voice to this cause completely.”