The battle against AIDS lost one of its most dedicated warriors on Monday morning when longtime activist Dennis deLeon passed away at the age of 61.
Living with HIV since 1988, deLeon publicly announced his HIV status in 1993 in a courageous op-ed article in The New York Times. At the time, he was the New York City Human Rights Commissioner. Throughout the decades, deLeon has worked tirelessly on the front lines of the battles against the disease.
After becoming President of the Latino Commission on AIDS in September 1994, he established the first nationwide Spanish-language treatment education program, as well as a national social marketing campaign in National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (October 15th). Over the past two years, deLeon has mobilized hundreds of community organizations and health departments nationwide to create a unified vision and public policy blueprint called the Latino AIDS Action Agenda.
In New York City, deLeon held many leadership roles over the years. In 1990, he was appointed Commissioner of Human Rights by then-mayor David Dinkins. He's also been Assistant Corporation Counsel, Deputy Borough President of Manhattan, and a member of the Civilian Complaint Review Board.
The Latino Commission on AIDS says that "like many, he suffered the physical and emotional trauma of AIDS, from personally battling the disease, to losing friends, family and colleagues. But the aftershocks (were) not enough to bend him nor deter him from the goal to end AIDS."
Marketing expert Roy Cosme, who runs Arcos Communications, tells nbcnewyork.com, "We have lost a fearless human rights leader and a fierce warrior in the fight against AIDS. Dennis led a remarkable life and inspired many people during his struggle with HIV/AIDS. My hope is that from those ranks will emerge a new leader that can fill the void left by his untimely death. I will miss him."
Funeral arrangements will be announced later Monday.