Discloser and Activist

May/June 2010

Reading time min

Discloser and Activist

Ted Thai/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

In 1993, Dennis deLeon laid bare a secret on the op-ed page of the New York Times. At a time when such revelations still struck many with fear, deLeon went public with the fact that he was HIV positive. DeLeon, who had been for three years the New York City human rights commissioner, wrote about his fear of disclosure: "Why put my professional and economic life in jeopardy? Why subject my partner of 15 years (who is HIV negative) to possible reprisals just for living with me?

"The simple answer is hope. If more people proclaim their HIV status, we will change the way society treats persons with the virus."

DeLeon, who made a career of trying to bring that hope to others, died December 14 in New York. He was 61.

Born in Los Angeles on July 16, 1948, deLeon graduated from Occidental College in 1970, where he'd been student body president. He graduated in 1974 from the Law School, where he served on the Stanford Law Review.

In the 1980s, deLeon was recruited from California Rural Legal Assistance, where he was helping migrant workers, to work in New York City government. As human rights commissioner, he was key in calming tensions between the city's polarized racial groups.

In 1994, he became president of the Latino Commission on AIDS. DeLeon grew the organization to a major force with a staff of 45 and a budget of $5 million. "Dennis's impact on the HIV epidemic will be felt for years and generations to come," current commission chair Ruben Medina said.

DeLeon is survived by his partner of 32 years, Bruce Kiernan; his father and stepmother, Jess and Louise deLeon; his sister, Diane Walden; and half siblings Dan and Denise deLeon.

You May Also Like

© Stanford University. Stanford, California 94305.