Leading AIDS Activist Spencer Cox Dies at 44
Spencer Cox, a pivotal AIDS activist who was the spokesman for the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power and a co-founder of the Treatment Action Group, died Tuesday morning in New York from AIDS-related causes. He was 44.
The activist was featured in the 2012 documentary "How to Survive a Plague," directed by David France. The filmmaker announced that Cox lost his battle to the disease in a statement.
Cox became the spokesman for ACT-UP in 1989 when he was 20 years old and shortly after he was diagnosed with HIV. He later helped found TAG, where he pioneered quick approval of drug and psychological treatments for those infected with the deadly disease. In 1995, Cox wrote the drug trail protocol for the first protease inhibitor drug, which led to the Food and Drug Administration quickly approving the medication.
Protease inhibitors are a class of drug used to treat or prevent infection by viruses like HIV and Hepatitis C. The so-called "drug cocktail" changed the nature of AIDS from immediately fatal to something long term.
"Spencer single-handedly sped up the development and marketing of the protease inhibitors, which currently are saving 8 million lives," TAG’s executive director Mark Harrington, said. "He was absolutely brilliant, just off the charts brilliant."
Before working with ACT-UP, the activist interned for amfAR, where he eventually worked his way up to assistant director of public affairs. While there, he worked on the organization’s communications and policy.