AIDS activist Wilfredo Valencia Palacios Roman—who died, at 36, of tuberculosis on November 29, 2003, in San Salvador—liked to say he was born on an orange crate in that city’s market. The little boy who sold bananas for his family and ran messages for revolutionary guerrillas became one of El Salvador’s most outspoken PWAs, famous for his dancing, quick laugh and enormous heart.
Offered asylum in the U.S., Wilfredo Valencia left the comforts of San Francisco’s gay community in 1994 and went home. “My old neighborhood was filled with people dying of AIDS—people I’d grown up with,” he told POZ. “I had to do something.” He helped organize El Salvador’s first AIDS protests and Gay Cultural Center, gave sex workers condoms and self-esteem training—and was fired at by right-wing death squads for his trouble. Positive since 1988, he maintained HAART only through sporadic California visits.