Of all the tributes to Elizabeth Taylor who died on March 23, at the age of 79, the most touching were those that cast a spotlight on her work in the fight against AIDS and HIV. Taylor was an early champion in speaking out for those stigmatized by society for having, then dying of the disease in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1991, she formed the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and many programs and organizations worldwide benefitted from her activism, including Project Angel Food. From my story:
NORTH HOLLYWOOD – Down a long, darkened hallway, Charine Nacis waits alone inside her Riverton Avenue apartment for a man she has known for years, but whom she could never recognize if she met him on the street.
She doesn’t have to wait long. Dan Koehnke is a little early when he knocks on her door and heads for her kitchen. He empties the contents of a brown paper bag on her counter – ham, mac and cheese, peas and dessert.
Nacis – who gradually has lost her vision, a result of medications she has taken to manage the HIV infection she contracted in 1991 – is delighted. The meals and visit by Koehnke and other volunteers from Project Angel Food have become her lifeblood. Without them, she could go hungry.
“I don’t really like to cook, because I can’t,” said Nacis, 58.
In the nearly two decades since Project Angel Food began, the Hollywood-based program’s volunteers have witnessed the spread and toll of AIDS and the HIV virus simply by the faces that await them each day. Now, they serve 1,200 meals a day throughout the Southland.