Pioneering AIDS Activist Spencer Cox Dead At 44

spencercoxSpencer Cox, an early spokesman for the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) and co-founder of the Treatment Action Group (TAG), died Tuesday morning from AIDS-related causes at Columbia Presbyterian. He was 44.

Cox’s HIV infection was initially responsive to medication, but he began developing resistance around 2000. He was hospitalized in 2009 with AIDS-related symptoms, but eventually returned to health. He entered Columbia Presbyterian on the 13th.

From his obituary by ACT UP Producer/Director David France:

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.

“Spencer single-handedly sped up the development and marketing of the protease inhibitors, which currently are saving 8 million lives,” says TAG executive director Mark Harrington. “He was absolutely brilliant, just off the charts brilliant.”

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  • Cam

    Two articles today about people around 40 dying from AIDS. It is scary to think that maybe that one character in the movie “Latter Days” may not have been wrong when he said…

    “I used to be you. Yeah, I had a career, friends, looks, the whole package. But now I’m just a skeletal reminder that we may only be in the eye of the hurricane.”

    My thoughts go out to his friends and family.

  • goldfish

    My thoughts are with his entire family of friends and relatives. He was such an eloquent man. Rest in Peace

  • goldfish

    To comment #2 there are still many many men and women who don’t give a poop of what your ur looks were. Having been a volunteer at a hospice I saw how quickly looks changed on a n dime.
    Don’t give up and don’t be as angry as you sound. Easy enough to say. Hard to live by
    I’ll answer should you respond. Unfortunatley I am ignorant concernining mail so if I can wish you anything this Christmas it is that yo ENJOY THE MOMENT

  • toren123

    There are many POZ people who believe that with the current drugs, they can live on indefinitely. While it is true that the virus can be kept in check, almost as if a chronic condition, Spencer Cox dying at age 44 suggests otherwise. I am 74, and have been POZ for 23 years, currently a viral load below detectible, CD4s in the 800’s, and CD8 near 40%. But I am very aware from continued studies and from the monitoring of my case and people like me that my body is wearing down. Yes I exercise, eat carefully and am doing well at offsetting the progress of normal aging. Yet it is unlikely I will reach the age of my parents who lived to 86 to 93 years.

    Spencer fought long and hard, for himself and for us. I mourn for him and for the family and friends close to him.

  • David

    If it’s true that Spencer single handedly sped up development and marketing of protease inhibitors which were released in 1995… then Spencer saved my life.

    I contracted HIV in late ’94, got tested 6 months later, only to find that my t-cells were dropping like a lead weight. I barely made it onto a clinical trial (being only 5 points above what they would accept for admission onto the protease inhibitor trial. It turns out that I was recieving a placebo. I continued to get sicker while on the trial as the trial director pleaded with the drug company to release the actual protease for me – they refused, but went open label with it shortly thereafter.

    As soon as I started taking the protease/cocktail my t-cells started to climb and my viral load dropped. I’m on the same protease cocktail to this day – 17 years.

    I went to some Act-Up meetings in NY in the early ’90’s (before I was HIV+). I don’t recall having met him, but after reading this article, I feel compelled to acknoweledge that I’m grateful to be alive and grateful to Spencer (and to Act-Up) for what he did to speed up the release of the protease inhibitor, without which, I believe that I wouldn’t have survived for long.

    Thank You Spencer, I will always be grateful for what you did. God bless you and may you rest in peace.

    David Candeias

  • Someguy

    A real hero.

  • california777

    if your going to censor me id rather have the whole thing pulled. im not into sites that deny me my first amendment rights.

  • the other Greg

    He does sound like a hero. I feel bad that his name was not familiar to me – I’ll remember it now.

    @california777: Don’t know what they censored, but that’s a common misconception. The First Amendment refers ONLY to government restrictions on speech. Queerty is not part of the government.

  • Cam


    The 1st amendment does not mean what you think it means. If a waiter was working in a restaurant and was saying to all the customers “This food is terrible, you don’t want to eat here.”

    Guess, what, he would be fired.

    You can say something, but as the owner of this site Queerty has the right to deleat it.

    I wish somebody would actually read the constitution before trying to reference it.

Comments are closed.