Vancouver, BC
West End Jepson-Young Lane since 1 July 2018
one name
Dr. Peter Diaries still resonate after 30 years, drawing parallels between the battles against AIDS and COVID
Peter Jepson-Young became the face of the HIV crisis in broadcasts that described the reality of an epidemic

Thirty years since her son first dared to show his face on the nightly news, beaming his story of living with and eventually dying of AIDS into living rooms across British Columbia, Shirley Young still starts each morning with Dr. Peter's words: "I accept and absorb all the strength of the Earth to keep my body hard and strong," she recited from memory. "From these elements I have come, and to these elements I shall return. But the energy that is me will not be lost." Now 87, Young has devoted much of the past three decades to keeping that energy alive by continuing her son's work fighting the stigma of HIV/AIDS.
Broadcast as the Dr. Peter Diaries on CBC Television, the story of Peter Jepson-Young told of a deadly new virus killing marginalized people and traumatizing doctors and nurses in the 1980s and early 1990s — all playing out against the backdrop of a race to try to find a cure before more people died. It has felt freshly relevant this year to those who lived through the worst of the AIDS crisis as a second wave of COVID-19 changes the way we live.

The first broadcast
The night of the first broadcast on Sept. 10, 1990, Jepson-Young, then aged 33, sat at his mother's feet in the family's TV room. In that episode, Jepson-Young explained how he knew something was wrong in September 1986 when he went from being able to climb the Lions — mountains on Vancouver's North Shore — to not being able to climb a flight of stairs over the course of about 10 days. He was hospitalized, diagnosed with AIDS, and given nine to 14 months to live.
Because of homophobia and the stigma about HIV/AIDS at the time, Young was worried about her son's decision to go public, that he could be attacked. News reports from the time about HIV-positive people being murdered in the U.S. and elsewhere haunt her still.
But the audience responded, CBC decided to keep interviewing him each week until he could no longer, and Young became extremely proud. In total, 111 instalments would go to air. For people in B.C., Jepson-Young became the face of the epidemic, which, according to a 2015 study in The Lancet, killed more than 6,200 British Columbians between 1981 and 2013.

The legacy continues
When Jepson-Young died on Nov. 15, 1992, people across British Columbia grieved. At his memorial service, his partner, Andy Hiscox, said he had come to recognize he didn't belong to just him and his closest friends and family. "I realized that Peter was your very special friend, your partner, your lover, your brother, your son, your uncle, your grandson," said Hiscox. "He gave us an identifiable face."
Hiscox carries his memories tenderly. A few times each week he passes the old apartment in the West End where he lived with Jepson-Young, looks up, and reflects on the short time they had together. "When you love somebody and you go through a transformational time in your life with them, it's very hard to forget that," Hiscox said. "We did live each moment. It was almost as if time did stand still."
In the days before he died, Jepson-Young set up a foundation, which, five years later, opened the Dr. Peter Centre in Vancouver.

Photo © Andy Hiscox CBC (Jepson-Young, front, and his partner Andy Hiscox with their dogs, Harvey the lab and Rocksy)

28 November 2020
Jodie Martinson, Vancouver