Spencer Cox dies: AIDS activist was 44


AIDS activist Spencer Cox, a longtime member of the AIDS community, has died. He was 44.

It was confirmed to the New York Times by his brother Nick that Cox had passed away from AIDS-related causes at the Allen Hospital in New York City. Mark Harrington, the executive director of a group Cox helped form called Treatment Action Group, says that Cox had struggled with an addiction to methamphetamines and stopped taking his AIDS medication months ago.

"He saved the lives of millions, but he couldn't save his own," Harrington says.

Born in Atlanta in 1968, Cox moved to New York City after studying at Bennington College in Vermont for three years. It was after he moved to the Big Apple that he discovered he had HIV. In 1989, he had joined the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, also known as Act Up, and then went on to help form TAG in 1992.

Cox, who was featured in the documentary "How to Survive a Plague," often took it upon himself to represent AIDS in high-level meetings with people from the FDA and other companies looking into the epidemic. He designed a human drug trial for one of the earliest antiretroviral drugs known to help treat AIDS patients, ritonavir.

"You can't understand how incredibly scary it was for him to sit down at the table of the F.D.A. Anti-Viral Advisory Committee as the 'P.W.A. representative' and take on the scientific establishment," original TAG member David Barr writes of Cox in a Facebook post, via the NY Times. "It took incredible courage and a whole lot of arrogance. You need to understand how lonely it was to sit at those tables, how much you felt like a complete fraud, yet also right and right to be there."

Cox is survived by his mother and brother.

Photo/Video credit: "How to Survive a Plague"