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AIDS Activist Spencer Cox Dies at 44

Cox

Spencer Cox, the pivotal AIDS activist who co-founded ACT-UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group) and was featured in David France's recent documentary How to Survive a Plague, has died at Columbia Presbyterian of AIDS related causes, France writes in a note:

As a very young man fresh from Bennington, where he studied Theater and English Literature, he arrived in NYC after finishing just 3 years. He was diagnosed with HIV soon thereafter. By 1989, at age 20, he had become spokesman for ACT UP during its zenith through the early 90s. A member of its renowned Treatment & Data committee, and later co-founder of TAG (the Treatment Action Group), he schooled himself in the basic science of AIDS and became something of an expert, a "citizen scientist" whose ideas were sought by working scientists. In the end, Spencer wrote the drug trial protocol which TAG proposed for testing the promising protease inhibitor drugs in 1995. Adopted by industry, it helped develop rapid and reliable answers about the power of those drugs, and led to their quick approval by the FDA.

Even before ACT UP, he began work for amfAR, first as a college intern, eventually going on staff as assistant to Director of Public Affairs, responsible for communications and policy. He left there to co-found the Community Research Initiative on AIDS (now the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America, ACRIA) with Dr. Joseph Sonnabend and Marisa Cardinale. At ACRIA, he ran public affairs and edited all publications.

From 1994 to 1999, he was Director of the HIV Project for TAG, where he did his groundbreaking work in drug trials designs. He designed the drug trial adopted in part by Abbott as they were developing Norvir, the first Protease Inhibitor to head into human trials. It had an "open standard-of-care arm," allowing people on the control arm to take any other anti-AIDS drugs their doctors prescribed, versus the arm taking any other anti-AIDS drugs plus Norvir. It was this study that showed a 50% drop in mortality in 6 months. Norvir was approved in late 1995. Though the results were positive, the proposal sharply divided the community, many of whom thought it was cruel to withhold Norvir on the control arm. Spencer defended himself in a controversial BARON'S coverstory that made him, briefly, the most-hated AIDS activist in America. Ultimately he was vindicated.

Watch the final interview with Spencer Cox shot by David France for his moving documentary, AFTER THE JUMP...

"What I learned from that is that miracles are possible. Miracles happen, and I wouldn't trade that for anything. I wouldn't trade that information for anything. I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know what'd going to happen day to day. I don't know what's going to happen next year. I just now, you keep going. You keep evolving and you keep progressing, you keep hoping until you die. Which is going to happen someday. You live your life as meaningful as you can make it. You live it and don't be afraid of who is going to like you or are you being appropriate. You worry about being kind. You worry about being generous. And if it's not about that what the hell's it about?"

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Comments

  1. Rest in peace buddy. <3

    )O(

    Posted by: Cecilfirefox | Dec 18, 2012 4:12:44 PM


  2. Indeed. What a loss.

    Posted by: The Milkman | Dec 18, 2012 4:17:29 PM


  3. Sad. And hopefully people who read this article will see that people DO still die of AIDS, regardless of the medications available.

    Posted by: Sad | Dec 18, 2012 5:04:15 PM


  4. Thanks Andy.
    It is so uplifting to read about a man who had ideals, determination and sheer force of character to pursue his altruistic vision.
    His dedication leaves a community in his debt.
    I hope all his loved ones will take comfort in the memory of such a good man.

    Ar deis De go raibh a anam.
    (May his soul be at God's right hand.)

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Dec 18, 2012 5:06:08 PM


  5. a soul as beautiful as it was strong--rest in peace

    Posted by: Arrant | Dec 18, 2012 5:10:54 PM


  6. the man refused to be silent when silence was not just killing us, but was being encouraged.

    this man will forever be a vanguard.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 18, 2012 5:15:11 PM


  7. Jack : I SURE as f--k hope you aren't writing Gaelic on THIS blog.

    Posted by: Yupp | Dec 18, 2012 5:19:29 PM


  8. Very sad news. This man fought for us. I am a 47yo man who has lived in NYC my entire life. I remember all too well the 80's and early 90's AIDS deaths. This man made a difference in ways that will be felt years to come. 44 years old. Still a young man. God bless.

    Posted by: greg | Dec 18, 2012 5:21:11 PM


  9. Very sad news. This man fought for us. I am a 47yo man who has lived in NYC my entire life. I remember all too well the 80's and early 90's AIDS deaths. This man made a difference in ways that will be felt years to come. 44 years old. Still a young man. God bless.

    Posted by: greg | Dec 18, 2012 5:21:12 PM


  10. @ YUPP :

    Yeah, that specially for you.....sweetheart.

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Dec 18, 2012 5:31:50 PM


  11. I'm young but know enough about what Spencer has done and continued to do right up until his pass and his efforts that will continue to positively influence the lives of so many to know he's a true hero. RIP, Spencer Cox.

    Posted by: Francis | Dec 18, 2012 5:37:14 PM


  12. Jack : Yeah, right. I'd love it. The rest of these gays sure won't. But, if that's your intention...thanks...

    Posted by: Yupp | Dec 18, 2012 5:52:15 PM


  13. Spencer, I icelebrate your light and lovely humor and life in the face of everything. You'll always be in my heart. I miss you.

    Posted by: Chris Mack | Dec 18, 2012 5:55:29 PM


  14. This is what a hero looks like: a gay hero and an HIV-positive one, who fought for both communities.

    I bet he didn't go around saying he wasn't gay!

    And anybody who does can't claim him as one of their own.

    (and who in the world is offended by Gaelic? Is that supposed to be a gay thing?)

    Posted by: KevinVT | Dec 18, 2012 7:02:25 PM


  15. KevinVt : It's a gay thing to be offended by Gaelic, yes. Or at least to pretend to be (though most gays in the U.S. wouldn't recognize it if they heard it anyway).

    Posted by: Yupp | Dec 18, 2012 7:08:24 PM


  16. Spencer Cox was a great man. I never realized he was younger than me, because he was clearly so much wiser. There is a hole in the world now.

    Posted by: raincoaster | Dec 18, 2012 7:21:19 PM


  17. Even if orientation doesn't change it's best for gays/lesbians to be celibate. Gay/lesbian sexual behaviors are bad by itself. Big Island Chronicles Tiffany Edwards Hunt farts in front of her kids & Tiffany Edwards Hunt is an apologist for homos, lesbians & transexuals-transexuals are worse than the gays. Black crack lesbian Pam Spaulding farts on her lesbian lover during sex & Pam Spaulding is into lesbian scat.

    Posted by: funinsnow | Dec 18, 2012 7:29:26 PM


  18. Even if orientation doesn't change it's best for gays/lesbians to be celibate. Gay/lesbian sexual behaviors are bad by itself. Big Island Chronicles Tiffany Edwards Hunt farts in front of her kids & Tiffany Edwards Hunt is an apologist for homos, lesbians & transexuals-transexuals are worse than the gays. Black crack lesbian Pam Spaulding farts on her lesbian lover during sex & Pam Spaulding is into lesbian scat.

    Posted by: funinsnow | Dec 18, 2012 7:29:27 PM


  19. There's as yet no cure, so play safe.

    Posted by: anon | Dec 18, 2012 7:37:33 PM


  20. Way too young. But what meaning and purpose he packed into his short life.

    Posted by: Commenter | Dec 19, 2012 12:30:52 AM


  21. Spencer was miraculous.

    Posted by: JeffNYC | Dec 19, 2012 1:10:05 AM


  22. FUNNINSHOW, you are a disgusting troll. Get lost.

    Posted by: nikko | Dec 19, 2012 4:23:52 AM


  23. No disrespect to this man's many accomplishments, but I don't really see how he could have "co-founded ACT-UP" which was founded in March 1987, when Spencer couldn't have been more than 18. Especially if he spent 3 years at Bennington before coming to NYC and was subsequently diagnosed with HIV. Something seems a bit off with the math there. But a terrible loss nonetheless. :-(

    Posted by: Rob | Dec 19, 2012 8:44:53 AM


  24. RIP

    Bennington, Vermont? Yeah well, you take a gay boy from a small town and put him the big city, he'll usually go hog wild. It can have dangerous results.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Dec 19, 2012 12:14:11 PM


  25. i still wonder why sooo many gay men find anal penetration necessary...

    I happen to be one of the ostracized few who always felt anal penetration at best was a misplaced attempt at forging intimacy.

    In spite of its risks, in spite of all its negatives, pitfalls and challenges sooo many gay men still participate in a rather antiquated and meaningless ritual...

    I wonder if our practices will ever evolve with the new realities of our needs...

    Until then...

    may you not catch death prematurely.

    Posted by: omar espinosa | Dec 20, 2012 11:14:40 PM


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