AIDS Activist Spencer Cox is Dead at 44

As Gay City News was going to press on December 18, news surfaced that Spencer Cox, 44, a veteran of ACT UP and a founder of the Treatment Action Group, had died earlier in the day.

According to Peter Staley, a colleague of Cox’s in ACT UP and at TAG, Cox died at New York Presbyterian/ Allen Hospital in Upper Manhattan, where he was being treated for AIDS-related pneumonia and other opportunistic infections. A Staley post on Facebook stated Cox had stopped medication for his HIV infection at some time in the past.

Cox was among the activists featured in David France’s recent AIDS documentary “How to Survive a Plague,” in which he recalled the introduction of protease inhibitors in the mid-1990s, saying, “I remember sitting there and just crying. It was like 'We did it! We did something!'”

France, on his Facebook page, posted an outtake from the film in which Cox said, “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… 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?”

In 2005, Cox launched an effort he called the Medius Institute for Gay Men’s Health, which he said would take a holistic approach to the needs of men in the community. Depression, he told Gay City News at the time, would be an early priority of Medius.

“Despite the key role that depression and other mental health issues play in influencing risks of HIV and other preventable diseases, gay men’s mental health needs have gone tragically unaddressed,” Cox said. “We have this enormous, terrible thing that happened to us that we have not confronted at all.”

In his Facebook post, journalist France said, “Over the years, he was a frequent and always brilliant source of mine, and a good friend.” Staley wrote, “I will dearly miss this beautiful and devilish man.”

A memorial for Spencer Cox has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday, January 20 at 3 p.m. at the Cutting Room, 44 East 32 Street at Park Avenue. A Facebook event page will be created soon to update any details.

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