New York, Monday, December 14, 2009 – The Latino Commission on AIDS mourns the passing of its founder, Dennis de Leon, a tireless advocate for social justice and one of the first openly HIV-positive Latino leaders in the country. He was a pioneer and a visionary, and in his lifetime he sought to curb and eliminate health disparities among marginalized communities. As a lawyer and later a non-profit executive, deLeon believed in bridging cultural differences to effect progressive social change.
For 15 years, de Leon was the President of the Latino Commission on AIDS, a national service and advocacy organization addressing HIV/AIDS and health disparities in the Latino community nationwide. In his capacity as Commission President, de Leon served as the Manhattan delegate on the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which reviewed police misconduct allegations, and on several other boards, including the New York City HIV/AIDS Planning Group, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Housing Works, and the Federal AIDS Policy Partnership.
Prior to his tenure at the Commission, de Leon served as Chair/Commissioner for the New York City Commission on Human Rights, where he enforced human rights laws and increased cooperation between diverse ethnic and racial communities. From 1988 to 1990, he was appointed Deputy Borough President for Manhattan after six years as the city’s Senior Assistant Corporation Counsel, where he supervised civil rights law enforcement and the representation of uniformed officers.
“Dennis’ impact on the HIV epidemic will be felt for years and generations to come. Throughout his career and as President of the Commission he maintained that all communities of color needed to work together to address not only the disease but injustices that made our communities more vulnerable. His passing is cause for great sadness, but his life and legacy are a cause for celebration, stated Ruben Medina, Latino Commission on AIDS Board Chair.“ “He has touched millions of lives and made a tremendous difference in the world. “
“It will be a challenge to pick up the mantle Dennis has left for us at the Commission. Dennis was a friend, a mentor and an example of what a national leader should be. He is a testament to the human spirit and the power of perseverance. His work and his dedication to our community will not be forgotten, “stated Guillermo Chacon, Latino Commission on AIDS President.
“Dennis was a force to be reckoned with. If there was a social justice issue that needed to be addressed you knew you wanted Dennis on your side. His work and his voice were respected nationwide and there was no greater champion for Latinos living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. He will be greatly missed,” stated Ernesto Loperena, former Latino Commission on AIDS Board Chair.
For information about funeral services and the service for Dennis deLeon, please visit: www.latinoaids.org or call 646-375-4415. A complete bio of Dennis de Leon is available upon request.