Sherri Beachfront Lewis, Los Angeles, Calif.; Activist, Writer, Humanitarian and Entertainer; Diagnosed in 1987
In 1991, Magic Johnson held a press conference telling the world that he tested HIV positive. I was already diagnosed HIV positive in 1987 and given five years to live even though I was healthy. I was married with a 16-year-old stepson, Blue. We were a basketball family since Blue was 6 feet 6 inches tall! Blue knew that I was HIV positive for years; but having a basketball star -- a heterosexual man -- come out was an important message for him to see.Show More
It could be anyone, any color, rich or poor. It was non-discriminating. It wasn't gay. Having Magic Johnson come forward with his HIV status brought that information into our AIDS education message. It was a historical step for the AIDS conversation. Personally, it provided me with hope.
To this day, when presenting AIDS education, there isn't a classroom where a student doesn't bring up his name. "Doesn't Magic Johnson have AIDS?" "Isn't he cured?" -- based on a misstatement that he made about his HIV status since he was successfully on treatment and living healthy. He later would correct that statement. I remember the gossip, that Magic was really gay. The stigma was strong. People just couldn't accept that this was a disease for anyone and everyone. The thinking that HIV was relegated to a certain group of people fed the denial and opened up another disastrous chapter in the AIDS epidemic: women getting infected and the birth of pediatric AIDS.