Whose Death Was It Anyway?


WESTERN LIVING   November, 1993

[Winner of the 1994 Western Magazine Award for Best Personality Profile]


Whose Death Was It Anyway?

One year later, that’s the question still being asked about Dr. Peter. By making
his private struggle with AIDS so very public, he left himself wide open. Open to new experiences, old prejudices and controversies that have yet to be put to rest.

By Daniel Gawthrop                       Illustration by Anita Kuntz

ON NOVEMBER 24, 1992, nearly a thousand Vancouver residents took the afternoon off work to pay their last respects to Peter Jepson-Young, the 35-year-old star of the local CBC evening news AIDS Diary series. Dr. Peter, as he came to be known to television viewers, was only one of nearly 1,300 British Columbians to have died of AIDS when his six-year illness finally ended on November 15, and his was hardly the first life to be honored by family and friends with a memorial service. But this occasion, held at Christchurch Cathedral on Georgia and Burrard, was more like a state funeral.

“Having death stare you in the face has a nasty way of putting things in perspective, and you sort out pretty quickly what’s really important and what’s not. Material objects are just things, nothing to get in a fuss about. People become the real valuable commodity.”

Prominently displayed at the edge of the altar was a framed, poster-size, black-and-white portrait of the late celebrity. CBC camera crews located throughout the cathedral captured the high-profile politicians sitting in the front pews, not far from Jepson-Young’s family: B.C. health minister Elizabeth Cull, advanced education minister Tom Perry, Vancouver mayor Gordon Campbell and councillor Gordon Price. Towards the end of the service Jepson-Young’s partner, Andy Hiscox, led the congregation in a recital of the meditation poem Jepson-Young had made famous through AIDS Diary. Finally, a group of senior clerics in full Anglican regalia conducted a traditional blessing.

Dr. Peter’s death was big news, and not only on the front pages of Vancouver dailies. Elizabeth Cull used the memorial service to present his family with an Exceptional Award of Merit from the B.C. government and a Canada 125 medal from Her Majesty the Queen. Federal and provincial legislatures paused for a moment of silence on the day after his death. The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Time ran obituaries. And within a few months of his death, the CBC Witness documentary starring Dr. Peter was picked up by HBO in the U.S., where it was reviewed favorably by both People and The Village Voice.

“I didn’t feel I could discuss my sexuality with my parents,” said Dr. Peter in AIDS Diary No. 3. “For me, I’d been gay as long as I could remember. It was just a normal part of who I was.” Clockwise from top left: Jepson-Young at age three in Penticton; his Grade 10 school photo from Woodlands Junior Secondary in Nanaimo; the picture of the perfect, middle-class, western Canadian family, 1968; his graduation portrait from the University of British Columbia medical school, 1985.

At the memorial service, presiding minister Neil Gray described Jepson-Young’s contribution to AIDS awareness in terms befitting a saint. “AIDS is something that can, if properly understood, help the church to understand the way in which conventional understanding of power is challenged,” said Gray. “Jesus helps us understand that power comes from vulnerability rather than striving to overcome that vulnerability. The way Peter coped with his disease was a reminder that there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. His dignity, once he did so, was an example to the church.”

But not everyone was so profoundly moved. For Denny Boyd, the Vancouver Sun’s resident curmudgeon, the cult-like atmosphere surrounding Dr. Peter’s death seemed like the exaggerated product of media hype. “Some of our newish social attitudes baffle me,” he wrote in his November 27 column. “I don’t understand the canonization of Dr. Peter, who died last week. He had a disease, he died. Everyone dies. Kids die by the millions of malnutrition, old people die of infirmity. Dogs die, plants die and I killed some trout this summer. But one man dies of a disease and there is a festival of mourning following a year of television coverage and sanctification and I just don’t understand it.”

While some dismissed his comments as insensitive, Boyd had, after all, encountered more than his share of media heroes in three-plus decades as a sports and urban affairs columnist. And this column does raise an intriguing question: What does it mean when someone is revered, not because of the uses to which he put his life, but because of the uses to which he put his death? By making public the details of his struggle against a fatal illness in 111 diary segments broadcast from September 1990 until November 1992, Peter Jepson-Young turned himself into a commodity. A commodity whose value is still being questioned a year after his death by all those who had a stake in it, from the CBC and its viewers to AIDS activists and Jepson-Young’s family and friends.

Whose death was it anyway? Was it the public’s, who learned, through Dr. Peter, to appreciate the human face of AIDS? Or did it belong to the 6 o’clock news, concerned about their ratings? Was Jepson-Young’s death an example of courage and hope for the suffering? Or was it, as some gay activists have claimed, merely the last hurrah of a privileged Guppie who had lived the high life and had to make his exit in the spotlight as well?

Jay Wortman was the person who first suggested to Jepson-Young that he consider making the details of his struggle with AIDS public. They had met in 1987 when Wortman was acting as the doctors’ media representative during a dispute with the Social Credit government over billing numbers. They became friends in 1989, when Jepson-Young was hired as an occupational health officer in the same office building as Wortman, who had since become associate director of the sexually transmittable disease control clinic. Unbeknownst to Wortman, his young colleague had been diagnosed with AIDS three years earlier.

After my diagnosis, I was concerned whether I could still be practicing medicine and, if so, what restrictions there would be on what I could do. I discussed it with my peers. It seemed that there was no risk of transmission to my patients, regardless of what procedures I would be performing. And then there was the question: Would they need to know? Well, being infected with HIV didn’t impact on my ability to perform my job, and therefore, they didn’t need to know.
–AIDS Diary No. 49, July 31, 1991

“Jesus helps us understand that power comes from vulnerability rather than striving to overcome that vulnerability,” said the minister at the funeral. “The way Peter coped with his disease was a reminder that there’s nothing wrong with asking for help.”

On September 16,1986, Jepson-Young, then 29, had gone on a hike on the Howe Sound Crest Trail. Even though he had been suffering for months from a persistent cough, he was still able to climb the peak of the Lions with little difficulty. Ten days later, he could barely make it up a flight of stairs. After suffering from severe nausea and a high fever, he finally checked himself into St. Paul’s Hospital on September 28. He was diagnosed with Pneumocystis pneumonia, an AIDS-related infection, the following day.

For two weeks, Jepson-Young barely hung on. After being hooked up to a mechanical respirator to keep air flowing to his lungs, he was put on medication that proved toxic, leading to two cardiac arrests. It seemed almost miraculous when he made a full recovery and was able to return to work just weeks after leaving the hospital.

Following this initial illness, Jepson-Young’s health remained stable and he managed to continue practicing medicine by filling in for other doctors for nearly four more years. By the spring of 1990, however, his eyesight was ravaged by cytomegalovirus retinitis—an AIDS-related infection of the retina that had been diagnosed the previous fall. Soon, he began tripping over garbage cans and bumping into his secretary’s desk. (“She looked up at me and asked if I’d been drinking,” he would later explain in AIDS Diary No. 2, September 11, 1990.) After his vision was reduced to a small, central area in his left eye and he had been hospitalized again (this time to replace an infected dome in his chest used for intravenous drug treatments), his supervisor withdrew an offer to extend his latest contract. It was then that Jepson-Young was willing to confide in Wortman and, even then, only because he needed career advice.

Wortman describes Jepson-Young’s demeanor as having been cool and rational, still that of a doctor announcing a diagnosis: “He told me he had AIDS and was going blind, that he realized he couldn’t continue to practice and was going to need something else to do, so he was wondering if I might have some ideas on the area that I work in—education and prevention, STD/AIDS and so on. Just like that. It was so understated, it was like saying ‘My car needs a new set of tires.’”

Wortman thought Jepson-Young’s options were limited, since he didn’t have a billing number for counseling. Then he remembered a newspaper article he’d read about a television reporter in San Francisco who had chronicled his struggle with AIDS in a series of journals on the local evening news. Wortman believed that same kind of exposure could do wonders in Vancouver. “It was becoming a problem that in a city with the highest case rate of AIDS in the country—and a very obvious kind of gay renaissance going on here—the majority of people had bigoted views about AIDS and gay people.” Part of the blame belonged to the media, whose attempts to put a human face on AIDS often consisted of enraged ACT-UP protestors or passive, bitter invalids, who simply reinforced stereotypes of gay men as victims.

“I was thinking that if everybody in the city could relate to people with AIDS the same way I did—on a personal level—they would go through the same transformation that I went through,” says Wortman. “They would see the humanity in people who are different from themselves.”

In Peter Jepson-Young, a handsome, cosmopolitan doctor with a naughty sense of humor (his impressions of televangelist Ernest Angely had been a big hit during his UBC medical school skit nights), Wortman saw an AIDS spokesman who would not turn people off. There was nothing about Jepson-Young that would distract television viewers from the education message: he wasn’t overly effeminate, he was out of the closet but apolitical, and his outlook on living with AIDS was based on a positive model of coping and survival.

Pre-AIDS, Jepson-Young was an A-list pinup gay with GQ good looks and a Richard Gere swagger. Clockwise from top left: summer 1986, just before he was diagnosed with AIDS; bewigged (right) at a ’70s disco party in May, 1989; with the gang at Laguna Beach (second from left) in July, 1989.

Top: at his parents’ North Vancouver home with Andy Hiscox, January 12,1991; bottom: with Harvey, his seeing eye dog.

After rejecting a proposal by a friend’s independent video company for a program in which broadcaster Linden Soles would interview a variety of people with AIDS from different backgrounds, Wortman approached the CBC evening news. He described what he and Jepson-Young had in mind to then-executive producer Graham Ritchie and was hooked up with producer David Paperny.

Jepson-Young was initially reluctant to move forward. He had already been having difficulty accepting that because he was considered a subject and not a broadcaster, he would not be paid for any segments. He also knew that exposing his homosexuality on television would be devastating for his parents, who still hadn’t recovered from the double whammy announcement, four years earlier from a St. Paul’s Hospital bed, that their son was gay and had AIDS.

The CBC had its reservations, too. Although he saw the potential in a first-person account of a life-threatening disease, Graham Ritchie felt that viewers were suffering from AIDS burnout. He also didn’t like the idea of copying a San Francisco station. But Jepson-Young, unlike KGOTV’s Paul Wynne, was not a journalist. As David Paperny argued, the fact that he was not only spontaneously articulate, but a doctor as well, would elevate the segments beyond conventional TV gimmickry.

Ritchie also had to carefully consider Jepson-Young’s decision not to reveal his last name, a right to anonymity that the CBC reserves for extreme cases in which personal security is deemed to be at stake. (Interestingly, some gay critics would later assert that this was a sign that Dr. Peter hadn’t really come out of the closet.) But the AIDS diarist had his reasons. Aside from his concern for the privacy of his parents, he was the only Jepson-Young in the phone book. (While still in medical school, he had decided to revive the family’s original double-barreled last name, adding Jepson to Young.) With no security in his South Granville apartment building, announcing his blindness would make him vulnerable.

Later events proved him right. After the segments began airing, a woman recognized him on the street and offered him a ride to St. Paul’s Hospital. She waited for him and took him back home, then insisted upon helping him walk inside his apartment, where she made sexual advances. When Dr. Peter’s surname was revealed in the Sun and the Province after his death, his partner, Andy Hiscox, received a number of obscene phone calls.

The CBC’s biggest concern, however, was the gay content in the series. For example, Ritchie was worried that AIDS Diary No. 3, which was devoted entirely to Jepson-Young’s experiences of growing up gay, would alienate viewers by sounding too much like a platform for homosexual rights. “I wanted the series to be the story of one person living with AIDS, but practical things like, this is Kaposi’s sarcoma, I am going blind—that kind of thing,” says Ritchie. “Supper hour [broadcasts] tend to be fairly conservative, so it had to be commonplace to the general public. It’s only by being commonplace that we accept things and understand them.”

News anchor Kevin Evans agreed. “There were times when I felt, this is not AIDS education, this is homosexual rights education,” he recalls. “If we were giving platforms for other groups to raise similar types of things, then my lack of comfort would have perhaps been eased.” (His discomfort eventually became delicious fodder for Jepson-Young’s campy sense of humor: one day, when Paperny and a camera crew were setting up in Jepson-Young’s living room, the AIDS diarist walked out with a red rose in his teeth and a pair of socks stuffed in his crotch, crooning a sultry ode to Evans.

Thanks to Paperny, Diary No. 3 was broadcast uncensored on September 12, 1990. Jepson-Young, who had never discussed his lifestyle with his parents before his diagnosis, was about to reveal his homosexuality to an estimated 150,000 viewers. Bob and Shirley Young had bitterly resisted Peter’s decision to do the series. Many of their friends still didn’t know their son was gay, let alone that he had AIDS, and they were understandably concerned about the public response and his safety. Moments before the segment aired, Peter was still reassuring them that his description of his adolescence was not a criticism of his upbringing, just an honest account of the pain and confusion many gay teenagers experience.

I grew up in a middle-class family, spending my teenage years in this North Shore neighborhood. These are the playing fields across the street from the high school I attended. It was a conservative, academically geared school. Not a welcoming place for a gay teenager. In a similar fashion, I didn’t feel that I could discuss my sexuality with my parents. For me, I’d been gay since I could remember. It was just a normal part of who I was, but I knew they wouldn’t take that view. They’re a product of their generation and the cultural stereotypes they’d been fed. It was a large part of my life I couldn’t share with them, and I got to be 29 years old and had never dated women and they didn’t ask. I wouldn’t have lied if they had….
–AIDS Diary No. 3, September 12, 1990

Viewer response was more antagonistic than supportive. In just two days, the CBC’s Talkback answering machine recorded dozens of hostile calls, many of them from the conservative Fraser Valley. In fact, the series would remain controversial, both with viewers and within the CBC, the whole time it was on the air. Nevertheless, Ritchie felt the segments should be given time to prove themselves and made AIDS Diary a regular segment, with Dr. Peter appearing every Wednesday.

Over the next 26 months, Dr. Peter covered everything from homophobia in the media (“I think a lot of people want the reassurance that one of the day’s greatest athletes [Magic Johnson] isn’t a junkie—or worse yet, a fag.” AIDS Diary No. 63, November 20, 1991) to drug company greed (“I think St. Paul’s should be applauded for getting [AZT] to as many people as they can—this should be the goal, not profits.” AIDS Diary No. 98, August 5, 1992). Dr. Peter also kept viewers up to date on his own health and shared his personal survival philosophy. He offered tips on safer sex (“I wish there was something I could say to people that would give them a risk of zero. Perhaps I could tell them just not to do it, or to stay at home and talk about sex on the phone. But most people aren’t happy with that response.” AIDS Diary No. 34, April 10, 1992) and how to cope with anger (“Being brought up a good Waspy boy, I was sort of taught to grit my teeth and develop an ulcer. Now I blast someone if they deserve it, and it feels good.” AIDS Diary No. 27, February 20, 1991). As a newly blind person, Peter demonstrated that it’s still possible to paint, learn to play the piano and ski downhill (“Okay, I’ve hit one tree so far. But it wasn’t that bad….Now all I have to do is convince them to let me drive home.” AIDS Diary No. 30, March 13, 1991).

The gravesite in Duncan, B.C., September, 1992: Father Logan McMenamie, Jepson-Young and his parents.

Before long, AIDS Diary developed a growing number of loyal viewers. A gay physician from New Westminster wrote: “I’m not that different from you, Peter—granted I have a few hundred more T-cells—and I know I couldn’t do what you do. [But] my battle with this disease (which I’ve really yet to begin) will be so much easier because of your work.” Other correspondents included a straight law student from Toronto who pledged to do work in the AIDS/HIV area; a 56-year-old woman recovering from open heart surgery who said she gained strength from Peter’s poem “The Affirmation” (see page 90); a desperate mother who begged Dr. Peter to recommend the right treatment for her son, who had AIDS; and Curtis Metzger, the third Anglican priest in Canada to come out of the closet, who told Dr. Peter that “in spite of people praising me for courage, I know I stand on the shoulders of many brave people who have helped me have that courage … and you are one!”

Of all the positive responses, it was the respect of straight men that most touched Jepson-Young. Once, a macho-looking construction worker, seeing him at a sidewalk, took him by the arm and escorted him across the street, congratulating him on the series. Another time, a friend was taking Jepson-Young to the bank when they encountered a group of teenage boys in heavy-metal attire hanging out on the steps. The friend’s fear of a gay bashing was quickly alleviated when a couple of the guys called out, “Hey, it’s Dr. Peter. Right on, man! Great show—keep it up, dude!”

Before doing AIDS Diary, Jepson-Young had always been reticent about revealing his sexuality because he believed it would jeopardize his position as a successful young doctor in mainstream society. While more and more people are beginning to understand the stifling effects of homophobia, it is seldom discussed that gay men can be equally closed-minded about straight men. It didn’t take long for Jepson-Young to come so far out of the closet that he was willing to use a trip to his favorite gym to question his own heterophobia.

The straight world has many stereotypes about gays, but also gays have many stereotypes about the straight world. And one of the concerns I had [about doing the series] was that in this sort of muscle, macho atmosphere of the gym, I would be very much frowned upon for being open about my sexuality, for being open about having AIDS, that these guys wouldn’t want me around, wouldn’t want me sweating on their equipment. The interesting thing is that the response has been completely opposite to what I had feared. The membership and staff here have been incredibly helpful. People have come up and addressed me by name and asked if I could use assistance in getting to equipment or helping me with different weights.
–AIDS Diary No. 10, October 17, 1990

Dr. Peter did have his critics, of course. Most of the antigay sentiment came from fundamentalist Christians, some of whom expressed admiration for Dr. Peter’s weekly addresses but damned him unless he repented for his sexual preference. (A typical message went: “Peter, sir, go to Jesus, admit and confess your erring ways to Him and ask Him for forgiveness, to be washed in the precious Blood of the Lamb.”) Two viewers sent rambling cassettes quoting the Bible, while others accused him of trying to corrupt children by speaking at high schools. “It seems that some people think I’m going to hell in a hand basket,” Dr. Peter responded on AIDS Diary No. 68, January 1, 1992. “Sometimes it seems that I’m quite misunderstood, but those [letters] I think are the vast minority.”

Criticism from the gay community was not so glibly dismissed. Despite his popularity among the general public, Jepson-Young could not escape the contradictions between his former and current lifestyles. Many gay men remembered him as the elitist medical student who showed up at all the bars and would only associate with patrons he thought were as attractive as he was. Those who were active bargoers in the late ’70s and early ’80s remember Jepson-Young as an “A-list, pinup gay” with GQ good looks and a Richard Gere swagger. He was often seen cruising down Robson Street at the wheel of his 1966 Lincoln Continental or 1970 Jaguar Saloon. (This image was not lost on the Village Voice writer whose critique of the HBO documentary described the early AIDS Diary Dr. Peter as “almost TV beautiful, in a Luke Perry/Jason Priestley sort of way.”)

Gay activists resented that Jepson-Young had never been involved with the organized gay community before he was ill. Pre-AIDS, he was fun-loving and superficial, a jet-setter who vacationed at New York’s Fire Island, Mexico, Costa Rica and the Caribbean and rarely allowed anyone to get close to him. Post-AIDS, he transformed himself into Dr. Peter, a commodity to be used by the straight world, and was still reaping the benefits of a privileged position.

On November 15,1992, as dozens of musicians, singers and technicians wrapped up the seventh annual Starry Night AIDS benefit at the Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver, the local media converged on the event. Although Starry Night was one of the most important AIDS benefits of the year, the press had never before provided major coverage—until Dr. Peter’s death that same day apparently gave the cause new urgency.

“We had done six years of Starry Night, and we hardly got a blurb anywhere,” says Bill Monroe, a longtime female impersonator and “mistress of ceremonies” for numerous AIDS fundraisers. “But Dr. Peter dies—a doctor!—and the CBC was down there, my picture was in the Sun, everybody was doing their thing. I said ‘Where the hell were you for the last six years when the same people had been doing the same show and raising the same money?’” For Monroe and many others, it felt strange to have won such legitimacy after so many years, simply because the most well-known “human face” of AIDS had died the same day. “I’ve watched hundreds of people die,” said Monroe. “Every one of them has a face.”

But for all the resentment of Jepson-Young’s celebrity status, there was no denying that his role as spokesman was useful to AIDS organizations. He was invited onstage as keynote speaker at both the 1991 and 1992 AIDS walkathons. He also used AIDS Diary to promote an AIDS Vancouver poster campaign for gay and bisexual men, to urge viewers to contribute to the Vancouver Meals Society (a charity that serves hot meals to home-bound people with AIDS) and, in one segment, to defend both the Vancouver Persons With AIDS (PWA) Society and AIDS Vancouver from homophobic “society matrons” who had refused to support a fundraising event “in which men might be seen dancing together.”

Dr. Peter attempted to explain the changes in his attitudes by stressing that, like any other terminal illness, HIV infection has a way of changing priorities. “AIDS is a disease of losses,” he said in Diary No. 29, March 6,1991. “The loss of your health, maybe the loss of your job…. A loss of independence and a loss of control.” And, he could have added but chose not to, a loss of arrogance. In July of1989, Jepson-Young experienced a rude awakening when he vacationed at California’s Laguna Beach and found that he couldn’t attract men as easily as he had only months earlier—he had lost weight and was off the A list.

After coming to terms with the changes in his appearance, Jepson-Young still faced the traumatic loss of his eyesight. In the third week of June 1990, he was at a barbecue when he joined a volleyball game at dusk, despite having no vision in his right eye and only a small amount in his left. He tried to rely on sound cues and shadows but was hit repeatedly with the ball. It finally took a hard serve that caught him smack in the face to convince him to leave the game. “It was awful to watch, because he was insisting on playing,” recalled Deborah Bebb, a medical school companion. “We were all trying to pretend it wasn’t happening, and he just got creamed with the ball.” Two months later, with even less vision, Jepson-Young was the volunteer physician at the Gay Games swimming events. His friend Michael Simmonds later recalled how “stubborn and unrealistic” he was about his condition: “He shouldn’t have been working—he was bumping into things all the time.”

People who first met Jepson-Young during this time describe a different man than those who had known him through the hospital or the bars. At a dinner party shortly after he began doing AIDS Diary, a now completely blind Jepson-Young met Andy Hiscox, whom he pursued in a typically romantic courtship. Despite the concerns of friends and family, Hiscox, who remains HIV negative, remained devoted to Jepson-Young to the end.

The people who I knew before, I of course could picture as I had last seen them. But someone I had never seen, I was assessing on a completely different level. Naturally, I pay more attention to voices now, but I also get an idea of what the person is like [and] I guess what comes through is who they are. In the time that I’ve been blind, I’ve met a few new people, including one in particular who has become very special in my life. And it’s interesting because I’ve never seen him, so I wasn’t able to form an opinion based on the superficial things—on his appearance, the clothes he wears, the car he drives, et cetera. Instead, what comes through is just a very clear picture of what a great person he is. It may sound corny and it may be a bad pun, but being blind has been a great eye opener.
–AIDS Diary No. 15 November 21, 1990

For many people, Dr. Peter personified hope because he defied horrifying personal circumstances to create something of lasting value. That he managed to promote tolerance and compassion for more than two years, while continually confronted with the paranoia that surrounds AIDS, was perhaps his finest accomplishment. In a memorable appearance on CBC Newsworld’s On the Line in October 1991, Jepson-Young faced off with the parents of Kimberley Bergalis, the young Florida woman who was one of six people to date who have allegedly contracted AIDS from dentist David Acer.

Jepson-Young was put on the defensive from the beginning when the Bergalises expounded upon the need for mandatory testing of all health care workers. “For a doctor who knows they have an active case of AIDS to continue practicing… they are a coward,” said an outraged George Bergalis. “It’s immoral—it’s worse than any felony anyone could commit.”

Jepson-Young countered that perhaps Dr. Acer had infected his patients intentionally and that their daughter’s situation should be treated as a rare criminal exception. Mandatory testing, he argued, would only drive people with AIDS underground. This was not an issue for the grieving parents. Anna Bergalis snapped back at Dr. Peter as though he and Kimberley’s dentist were one and the same: “What are you supposed to do, put the whole man in a glove? Is that what you’re supposed to do, Dr. Peters [sic]?”

Jepson-Young, who had listened patiently to the Bergalises for almost an hour, finally sighed and remarked how strange it seemed that people can get “exceptionally outraged” about AIDS “and yet, if someone can take an assault rifle to the local strip mall and shoot up 30 people, it doesn’t incite the same degree of horror,” a reference to Florida, the Bergalises’ home state, where gun-related deaths had reached epidemic proportions long before AIDS became a public health issue. But Anna Bergalis could only wince at this response from a man who was just as heroic, in his own way, as her daughter had been in hers.

Jepson-Young’s heroism was still being questioned three months after his death, this time by a well-known Vancouver AIDS activist who dismissed the legacy of AIDS Diary because it had not been as explicitly political as his own organization. “Education is all very well and good,” he said, sitting in a popular gay bar on Vancouver’s Davie Street, “but how many lives did [Dr. Peter] save?” He might well have asked how many skyscrapers Dr. Peter had leapt in a single bound. At last count, no lives have ever been “saved” in 12 years of the AIDS epidemic. Not by doctors, researchers, reporters or activists. A more constructive question might have been: How many lives did Peter Jepson-Young inform, enrich and possibly prolong through the way in which he chose to handle his death? □

The Affirmation
I accept and absorb all the strength of the earth to keep my body hard and strong
I accept and absorb all the energy of the sun to keep my mind sharp and bright
I accept and absorb all the life force of the ocean to cleanse my body and bring me life
I accept and absorb all the power of the wind to cleanse my spirit and bring me strength of purpose
I accept and absorb all the mystery of the heavens, for I am a part of the vast unknown
I believe God to be all these elements, and the force that unites them
And from these elements I have come, and to these elements I shall return
But the energy that is me will not be lost.

Affirmation: The AIDS Odyssey of Dr. Peter by Daniel Gawthrop will be released by New Star Books in spring 1994.

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