Spencer 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.”