Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, described AIDS activist and author Larry Kramer as “an icon” in reflecting on his life.

(Related: AIDS activist, author Larry Kramer has died.)

Fauci said that he learned of Kramer's death via a text message from HIV activist Peter Staley, who asked Fauci to call him. “We were both in tears on the phone,” he told the Washington Blade.

“It's a very sad day, not only for me, but for so many who have had the opportunity to interact with Larry since the very beginning of the HIV/AIDS era,” Fauci said.

While Fauci in his role at the NIH helped develop treatments for HIV/AIDS, some of which are still in use today, he became a target of AIDS activists such as Kramer angry at the government's slow response to AIDS. He called Kramer a friend and a nemesis.

(Related: Fauci: Pandemic has “shed a light” on health disparities in the US like AIDS did with gay people.)

“I’ve had an interesting, unusual – and in some respects, wonderful – journey with Larry over the years,” Fauci said. “Since I was in his mind a representative of the government that he felt wasn’t moving quickly or well enough with HIV, we started off in somewhat of an adversarial role where he was attacking me for any number of reasons, and then as we got to know each other and realized that we both had a common goal that we shared, we became acquaintances, then friends, then really, really close friends.”

“We gradually grew into a very deep and lasting friendship, and a friendship that he wasn’t afraid, even when we were at our very best and closest of still criticizing things that he didn’t think were the way he wanted to see me do things,” Fauci said. “So he wasn’t afraid to push back even at a time when we were close friends.”

“So, you know, every once in a while, a giant among us passes, and I think this is one of those times when somebody who truly was a giant and an icon and a legend passes,” he added.

Fauci is a leading researcher in the race to find treatments and a vaccine for COVID-19.