Days after the 1993 Walk for AIDS in downtown San Jose, the Mercury News ran an article that illustrated just how devastating the epidemic was in those years.
“As the fourth annual Walk for AIDS drew near, every visitor to the bedside of Peter Johnson had to make a pledge. “He was dying and he was asking people to sponsor him,” said his mother, Helen Johnson. “On Monday, Peter Johnson—down to 100 pounds from his normal 150, 6-foot-1—confided to his friend Bob Clayton: “It’ll be a chair-athon for me (Sunday).” I said, ‘Fine. We’ll all push.’”
Regrettably, Peter Johnson didn’t make it to the annual fund-raising walk for the disease. He died of AIDS on October 13, 1993, just under two months after his 30th birthday.
Throughout his illness, Johnson drew strength from the support of his family. His mother, Helen, volunteered at Aris alongside him and walked in the AIDS Walk with him every year. She continued to walk for many years after Johnson’s death.
Johnson had graduated from Overfelt High School in 1981. He was diagnosed with HIV at the end of the 80s and shortly afterwards began volunteering with Aris. By early 1991, he was a member of the Aris board with the group’s executive
director Bob Sorenson telling the Mercury News that Peter was “one of our best interpersonal ambassadors.”
In 1992, he was appointed to the County AIDS Commission. He attended every commission meeting, even those where there was not a quorum present. Sadly, his time on the commission was too short.