What Killed Spencer Cox?

Only weeks before dying of AIDS-related causes at the age of 44, veteran AIDS activist Spencer Cox joyfully attended the screening of an Oscar-nominated documentary. Less than a month later, he was dead. What quickly followed was a ruthless debate over the cause of his death that still plagues the AIDS community today. Some have blamed “pill fatigue,” while others have bluntly deemed it a suicide. In The New York Times, Jacob Bernstein says the answer is more complicated. Cox, an integral part of the AIDS drug movement, shocked friends after his death when they discovered half-full pill bottles, some over six months old. The excess pills were proof he’d stopped following the drug regimen necessary to keep him alive. Still, calling Cox’s death a deliberate suicide is too simple, says Bernstein. Whether or not he wanted to die, we’ll never know. In the words of his dear friend fellow Act Up alumni Peter Stanley: “It was a life unraveling.”