To many of the audiences who sat down for Jean-Marc Vallée’s 2013 film Dallas Buyers Club, the practice of conducting AIDS drug circulation rings on the down-low was all news (as were the resurgent acting talents of Matthew McConaughey). Organizations of queer men and women, along with anyone else sympathetic to the plight of those affected by the AIDS epidemic, successfully hoarded the HIV-fighting drug AZT and its experimental precursors to distribute at a reasonable price to those who really needed them. The illegal efforts of these groups were responsible for saving countless lives and ensuring that those who weren’t able to survive would be treated with decency, dignity, and respect in a time when many doctors regarded AIDS patients as second-class citizens.
This past Tuesday was World AIDS Day, a time of solemn remembrance for anyone touched by the modern plague. Actress, model and all-around sex symbol Kathy Ireland was speaking to Entertainment Tonight about her engagement with AIDS research and funding when she revealed a fascinating tidbit about her former mentor, the grande dame Elizabeth Taylor. Apparently, the actress and social figure of repute assisted in the formation of one of these buyers clubs, and even used her ritzy Bel-Air home as a safe house for AIDS patients. Ireland didn’t cough up too many specific details, though she did note that “a lot of the work she did was illegal” and “she was saving lives.” Ireland emphasized the bravery inherent in Taylor’s selfless alliance with the AIDS community, mentioning that “she received death threats, friends hung up on her when she asked for help.” This revelation is a nice reminder of the one silver lining of such sweeping tragedy: that low points tend to bring out proportional highs of altruism and human generosity.