Pioneering AIDS activist Spencer Cox dies

Spencer Cox who pioneered drug and psychological treatments for HIV positive people dies at the age of 44

Pioneering AIDS activist Spencer Cox dies
19 December 2012

Spencer Cox, a leading AIDS activist who led research on protease inhibitors which saved millions of lives, died of AIDS-related causes at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.

He was 44-years-old at the time of his death, yesterday morning (18 December).

Cox became the spokesperson to the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power (ACT UP) at the age of 20 and soon after cofounded its off-shoot, the Treatment Action Group (TAG).

It was during his pivotal role in TAG, when in 1995, according to David France, he wrote the drug trial protocol for the first protease inhibitor drug.

Thanks to this pioneering work, protease inhibitors, a class of drugs used to treat or prevent infection by viruses, including HIV and Hepatitis C, were adopted and manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry saving millions of lives.

Speaking with France, Mark Harrington, executive director of TAG said: ‘Spencer single-handedly sped up the development and marketing of the protease inhibitors, which currently are saving eight million lives.

‘He was absolutely brilliant, just off the charts brilliant.’

Cox also founded the Medius Institute for Gay Men’s Health which demonstrated the emotional trauma of survivors of the AIDS epidemic and pioneered psychological care and support for them.

According to France, his ‘HIV infection was initially responsive to medications, but he began developing resistance around 2000.

‘He was hospitalized in 2009 with AIDS related symptoms, but eventually returned to health.’

He was hospitalized again at the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, New York on Thursday (13 December) and died yesterday at 10:15am (18 December).

A memorial service is scheduled for Cox this Sunday (23 December) in New York.

Cox featured in France’s recent documentary about the AIDS epidemic, ‘How to Survive A Plague’.

In memory of the activist, France released an interview with Cox below, where he reflects on his work.

Cox said: ‘I just know you keep going, you keep evolving and keep progressing until you die, which is going to happen someday.

‘You make your life as meaningful as you can make it… That’s what I’ve learnt.’

Watch the interview below:

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