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AFFECT OF MAGIC'S WIFE'S REVELATION THAT MAGIC HAS BEEN CURED
Apr 9, 1997

WHAT AFFFECT, IF ANY, DO YOU BELIEVE THE NEWS STORY PRINTED IN EBONY MAGAZINE'S APRIL ISSUE HAVE ON CONTINUED SUPPORT ON GETTING THE MESSAGE AROUND SAFER SEX TO THE BLACK COMMUNITY?

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question. Based on widely published media reports, Magic Johnsons viral load has gone "below detectable levels". Assuming that this is true, this does NOT mean that he is cured. What it does mean is that the amount of the virus in his blood is too low for the viral load test to detect it. At very low levels (presently below 400 copies/ml), the viral load test will usually not be able to detect and measure HIV. As the tests get better and better over time, we can expect the threshold of detection to get even lower than 400; however at very low levels, viral load tests cannot always detect HIV. The viral load test only measures the amount of HIV in blood, not the entire body. Besides the blood, HIV can also live in various tissues of the body (like the lymph nodes and the brain). So a viral load test that doesn't detect HIV, does not mean that a person is cured. It does however mean that there is very little virus in the blood, which clinically is good news.

If Magic Johnson's wife claimed that he is cured, this is sending out the wrong message to people. The present drug "cocktails" do not cure HIV infection. Nobody has ever been cured from any of these drugs. But these "cocktails" do reduce the amount of virus in the body, which can help slow down the progression of the disease. It's important to note that not all people respond well to the various "cocktails" , and the viral load does not always go below detectable levels. But the lower the viral load, the better the clinical outcome is expected to be.

It's important that we stress to people about what viral load tests can, and cannot do. They CANNOT detect HIV when the virus is at very low levels in the blood. They CANNOT detect HIV in the entire body (only the blood). When used in conjunction with other tests (like CD4 cell counts), they CAN determine how well a person is doing clinically, and how well drug therapy is working. But I must re-emphasize that viral loads below detectable levels do not mean a person is cured, and they do not mean the person is no longer infectious to others.

I'm hoping that this magazine article will not get people in the black community (or any other community for that matter) to stop having safer sex. Too many people are still dying of AIDS (in spite of the new drug "cocktails" ), and a disproportionate number of people with HIV/AIDS are from the black community. We must make sure that everyone is educated about what viral load test results mean, and don't mean. Many people have claimed they have been cured of AIDS, or that they can cure other people of AIDS. Unfortunately, none of these claims have turned out to be true. We must keep emphasizing to everyone the importance of safer sex. This applies not only to HIV, but other incurable and potentially fatal Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD's) as well.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).



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