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Homage to Magic Johnson

Spring 1996

Tuesday, January 30, 1996 was the day we've all been waiting for. The headline in the Los Angeles Times read "Triple-Drug Treatment Shown to Inhibit HIV." And lower, on the same page "Positive Signs for Magic." These two headlines are the best news for us HIV positive people in a very, very long time.

We've been hearing about protease inhibitors for years. Finally, they're becoming available as a very strong treatment option. And they actually work! Not a cure, but certainly a strong defense, at last. Maybe now HIV will actually be a manageable chronic disease.

Now the other news, which received much more press, "Magic is Back!" Now, I'm not much of a fan of professional sports. I might watch the play-offs and the world series, but that's about it. However, I had to watch Magic's first game back as a Laker. It was a moving, emotional experience.

The Game

I watched the game for many reasons. I wanted to see how the crowd responded. It was phenomenal. I wanted to hear what the announcers had to say. I had to laugh when Magic's energy and enthusiasm was referred to as "contagious." Perhaps I was oversensitive to this reference. But the fear of being infected through physical contact seemed to be gone. When Magic tried to return to basketball in 1992, his return was thwarted by ignorance. People have finally learned about HIV transmission, and they realize it does not happen readily nor easily.

The Announcement

Four years ago, when Magic Johnson announced that he was HIV positive, I had a miniature nervous breakdown. Why? Because, as a woman, I felt the effects of this announcement on a profound level. First of all, because he made a point of saying he was infected through heterosexual sex. This pointed the finger at women and made us "vectors of disease." Even though it is widely known that the chance of female-to-male transmission is almost nonexistent in the United States. Okay, it could happen, but I have never met one woman who has infected her male partner. Most of the women I know had unsafe sex for many years before they knew they were infected, yet their male partners remain negative. The only good part about this announcement was that the men might now wear condoms, which would protect the women they might otherwise infect.

Responsibility

The second reason Magic's announcement was so troubling was that he never mentioned the women he might have infected. Some nameless woman was blamed for his fate, yet he didn't take responsibility for possibly infecting many others with his machismo sexual antics.

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And he didn't even have to tell his ex-lovers face to face, as the rest of us did--watch their faces as they realize the enormity of the situation--wait with baited breath for the results of their HIV test--breath a sigh of relief when they test negative. I'm sure he experienced this with his wife, Cookie, but I'm sure many other women had to go through this alone. And perhaps they weren't as lucky as Cookie.

Retirement

When he found out he was HIV positive, Magic Johnson retired from the NBA. Being a public figure, he stayed public, only this time in the AIDS spotlight. He presented himself as a spokesman before he educated himself. He said things like "I attained the HIV virus." He went to Washington, and soon realized he was ineffective. He started a foundation which gives money to AIDS charities. He said in the September 10, 1995 Los Angeles Times Magazine that "No person, not one, has done more for HIV/AIDS than I have." I'm not quite sure what he was referring to, until now.

Life Goes On

His return to the Lakers was Magic's biggest contribution to people with HIV. It was the Zen of HIV disease. The realization that life goes on. You are who you are. Magic finally realized he is a basketball player. That is what he does best. It's the lesson for all of us. Life doesn't have to stop.

And Magic is a family man. Children can happen after HIV. Love can flourish. A family life is still a possibility. I know that so many people feel they will forever be isolated and alone. They wonder if they even have the right to have children or adopt them, because they might not be around long enough to raise them. Magic has two children. His human desire for a family continues to exist, and he honors this desire. So should we all. We don't cease to be human just because we have an HIV diagnosis. True, we have much to consider and adjust to, but we are still the same people we were before. We don't have to stop our lives, just because our mortality has become more of a reality. If anything, we must acknowledge how precious life is, and live as fully as possible.

Hey, Sports Fans

I'm so incredibly happy that Magic Johnson has learned and is living all of this for the entire world to see. He's healthy. He's human. He is alive and living. Here's to Magic. Here's to all of us. I think I might even become an ardent Laker fan. And, hey, how about those Protease Inhibitors!



  
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This article was provided by Women Alive. It is a part of the publication Women Alive Newsletter.
 
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