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NY1: AIDS Activist Dennis deLeon Laid To Rest

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Uploaded on Jan 6, 2010

The city paid its final respects to long-time AIDS activist Dennis deLeon Thursday.

A funeral was held in the morning at the University Parish of Saint Joseph in Greenwich Village.

DeLeon, who died earlier this week at age 61 from heart failure, served as New York's Human Rights commissioner under then-Mayor David Dinkins for three years and founded the Latino Commission on AIDS.

"We're gathered here today to mourn the loss of this remarkable man, whose extraordinary passion for this city and public service will continue to live on in our hearts," said Dinkins.

When he announced in a 1993 op-ed piece in the New York Times that he was infected with the HIV virus, he said he had feared discrimination if he revealed his condition.

"Last name deLeon, it's 'the lion' [in Spanish]. I tell people that we lost a lion," said Guillermo Chacon of the Latino Commission on AIDS. "He was an important public official and he decided to make public through a press conference that he was living with HIV. By putting a face, he began to break the wall of discrimination, fear, and stigma."

DeLeon lived more than 20 years after his diagnosis, leading the fight for HIV and AIDS medication and prevention awareness especially for communities of color.

"He had a tenacious, intellectual ability about him," said Debra Fraser-Howze, founder of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. "One time he wrote a letter to a government official, as we did often when I was at the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. And it was so pointed that letter, I still keep it."

Friends say deLeon's purpose in life was to promote the importance of getting tested for HIV, and having the resources to be properly treated, both medically and emotionally.

"Dennis was an inspiration," said friend Carlos Soles. "He had the vision, was an incredible leader, was committed to a beautiful cause, which is HIV and human rights."

DeLeon's role as leader of the Latino Commission on AIDS will be filled by Chacon.

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