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2021's Amazing People Living with HIV: Advocate Carl Fox

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“I learned early on that if I was to survive, I had to be pro-active,” the amazing Carl Fox says.

He first learned this lesson in 1985, when the then-27-year-old gay man was told by his doctor he was now living with HIV — but not for long, according to the medical world at the time. The doctor gave him two years to live. It was a familiar sentence delivered to many gay and bi men of the period, but one Fox found himself unable to accept.

“I was told to go home and basically die,” Fox, now 63, recalls, but when he felt no different six months later, he returned to the doctor with a new message of resolve that stays with him to this day.

“I have decided not to die from this, and you can’t make me!” he recalls telling the doctor.
Fox lost his partner and far too many friends during that period and the years to follow, but he also taught himself to speak out and fight back.

“We had to fight for ourselves, and go and demand services, help, medications, everything. We had to be leaders,” Fox says, later adding that since those dark times he strives “never to be silent when fighting” for the health care rights and needs of others.

Fox’s perseverance was tested yet again six years ago when a sudden spine issue left him partially paralyzed. Dogged rehabilitation has since returned 50 percent of its former strength to his lower body, and he recently put himself to an important, albeit small, test of his abilities.

“I managed to jump about 2 inches, and can do a short, bad sprint!” he proudly reveals.

It’s the intersectionality of his never-say-die attitude along with an undying loyalty to the community that led Fox to participate in a landmark study through the University of Cincinnati’s Infectious Disease Clinic. Researchers are studying gene modification with the hope of lowering the entry of HIV into the white blood cells called lymphocytes, and laying the groundwork for a potential cure down the road.

“Within the last 12 months I have received two infusions, and am now waiting to see if it works,” Fox says. “It is a two-year study, and double blind, but in the end, they may cure this disease! Nothing tops that!”

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