Peter Jepson-Young, AIDS educator

November 18, 1992|By Clyde H. Farnsworth | Clyde H. Farnsworth,New York Times News Service

TORONTO -- Dr. Peter Jepson-Young, a physician who helped fight stereotypes and misunderstandings about AIDS in frank television discussions of his own battle against the disease, died Sunday in Vancouver at 35.

Dr. Peter, as he was known to millions of Canadians who saw more than 100 segments of his "AIDS Diaries" broadcast over the last two years, died of AIDS-related complications. He was considered one of the country's most effective educators on the disease.

With understatement, a sense of humor and the clinical detachment of a doctor examining a patient, he described the progress of the disease on his own body. In one program he displayed Kaposi's sarcoma, an AIDS-related cancer often characterized by skin lesions, on his left leg.

"This is what a typical KS lesion looks like," he told viewers.

Earlier this year he became British Columbia's longest surviving AIDS patient, at six years. It was a distinction, he said, he viewed with mixed feelings because while he had "beaten the odds," it also meant that all the people before him had died.

In one recent segment, Dr. Jepson-Young summed up the goal of his "AIDS Diaries": "If I have managed to reach out and educate people, to touch them and perhaps change their viewpoint about people with AIDS and gay people, then I think that will be my greatest contribution."

His honesty won him admirers.

"I'd been gay since I could remember," he declared in one of his earliest segments.

The "AIDS Diaries" segments, which lasted three minutes each, were shown by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. with the evening news. They began by showing him outdoors, in settings of water and pines, robust and hearty although the virus had already robbed him of his sight.

Some of the earlier segments showed him learning to play the piano, painting and traveling to Dublin, where he presented the "AIDS Diaries" to an international conference. Dr. Jepson-Young discovered that he was infected with the disease in 1986, three months after completing his medical training at the University of British Columbia.

His sister, Nancy Hennessy, also of Vancouver, has announced the founding of the Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation with the goal of improving the qualify of life of those stricken by the disease. In addition to his sister, he is survived by his parents, Bob and Shirley, of Vancouver.

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