Elizabeth Taylor turned her LA mansion into a Dallas Buyers Club
Businesswoman and former model Kathy Ireland explained in an interview that the Hollywood actress ran an underground – and illegal – network to provide medication to people with the HIV virus
Elizabeth Taylor spent the last 25 years of her life working to raise awareness of HIV and Aids and funds to help those affected by it.
But a recent revelation suggests her pioneering efforts began far closer to home: the Cleopatra actress ran a secret safe house in her Bel-Air mansion, where people infected with the disease were able to get experimental medication that was outlawed by the American government.
Model and Aids activist Kathy Ireland, who was mentored by the actress, broke the late Taylor's secret in an interview with US show Entertainment Tonight.
During the conversation, Ireland said: "[She was] fearless in her home in Bel-Air. It was a safe house.
"A lot of the work that she did, it was illegal, but she was saving lives. It was in a time when it was not something to do.
Business associates pleaded with her, 'Leave this thing alone' She received death threats. Friends hung up on her when she asked for help, but something that I love about Elizabeth is her courage."
Ireland added that Taylor pawned her jewellery to pay for the help she was providing and "would have gone to jail" if she had been caught.
Taylor's was one of several "underground networks" that imported drugs from countries like Mexico and Japan in the wake of the 1980s AIDS crisis. One of which, the Dallas Buyers' Club, run by Ron Woodroof, inspired the 2013 film of the same name.
These groups would provide drugs that the Federal Drugs Agency (FDA) were still labelling as "experimental" so that those with HIV could be treated. Early government-approved treatment sometimes caused more illness among patients, while treatments such as AZT weren't approved until the late Eighties.
The high cost of and long waiting lists for satisfactory medication also made illegal networks necessary for many to survive.
Taylor was one of the first prominent celebrities to publicly become an activist for Aids in a time when many high-profile figures chose to distance themselves from the disease.
She started to raise awareness in the mid-1980s following the diagnosis of her friend and co-star Rock Hudson, and founded the National AIDS Research Foundation in California in 1984. In 1991 she founded The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, which continues to raise money for those affected today.