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Magic Johnson Combats AIDS Misperceptions

December 1, 2006

At a World AIDS Day briefing in Los Angeles today, basketball great Magic Johnson will launch a $60 million campaign aimed at cutting HIV/AIDS rates among African Americans by 50 percent in the next five years.

Through a partnership with drug maker Abbott Laboratories, the "I Stand with Magic" initiative will hold HIV testing drives in 10-13 cities each year; sponsor education and marketing drives; support grassroots advocacy programs; and provide scholarships for doctors who staff HIV/AIDS programs in the black community.

Fifteen years ago, Johnson announced he was HIV-positive and would retire from basketball. He has remained in relatively good health, for which he credits his daily multi-drug cocktail and, possibly, the conditioning that came from playing up to 100 NBA games a year. Johnson is a national spokesperson on HIV, urging young people to practice safe sex and reminding them "[HIV] can happen to anyone, even me, Magic Johnson."

Ironically, however, many people interpret Johnson's healthy appearance as a sign he has cleared the virus. Mysisha Patterson, national health coordinator for NAACP, said Thursday, "Just last night, I did a seminar with a group of high school girls. I had them write down three things they knew about HIV/AIDS. Somebody wrote, 'There's a cure for AIDS. Look at Magic Johnson.'"

"You can't take that attitude that you're going to be like Magic," said Johnson. "The virus acts different in all of us. There's no certainty that if you get [HIV], you're going to be OK."

At the time of his announcement in 1991, CDC reported one-third of all AIDS cases were African Americans. Blacks now account for nearly half of all new HIV diagnoses, and for the last six years, HIV/AIDS has been the leading cause of death for African Americans ages 25-44.

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Excerpted from:
USA Today
12.01.2006; Steve Sternberg




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