Magic Johnson Keeps Up HIV Fight
November 7, 2006
Fifteen years ago today, basketball star Earvin "Magic" Johnson faced the television cameras and made an admission that shocked the nation.
"Because of the HIV virus that I have obtained, I will have to retire from the Lakers," Johnson said on Nov. 7, 1991. "I think sometimes we think, 'Well, only gay people can get it, only -- well, it's not going to happen to me.' And here I am saying that it can happen to anybody. Even me, Magic Johnson, it can happen to."
Thanks to his wealth and access to care, Johnson has maintained his health in the intervening years. But in an interview with Oprah Winfrey last month, Johnson stressed, "No, I'm not cured. And I think that I've just been blessed. I've been able to take my medicine, work out, and do the right things. And that's why I've been doing so well."
As part of his effort to "get the word out about this virus and how it is affecting the minority community," Johnson has opened four clinics where people can get help, information and treatment. Three are in California -- in Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles -- and one is in Jacksonville, Fla.
Janet Threatt is program director for Simon House, a shelter in Detroit for HIV-positive women and children. Threatt said she would like to see Johnson expand his outreach to the Detroit area. "We get more and more women every year," she said, and "so many young people [are] being infected."
Royale Theus, program director of the Midwest AIDS Prevention Project, expressed gratitude for the impact of Johnson's stunning 1991 announcement, after which "a lot of people went out and got themselves HIV-tested." She added, however, "But that trend only lasted a year or two."
11.07.2006; Fred Girard