Commentary & Opinion
Magic Johnson: Take AIDS Fight Into Black Communities
December 1, 2008
"When I was diagnosed with HIV 17 years ago, I worried about my health and my family. And I worried about what people might think of me.
"This year, [CDC] reported that more than 230,000 Americans have HIV and are not aware of it. The African-American community is the hardest hit. Although we make up about 12 percent of the population, we account for almost half the estimated number of HIV/AIDS cases diagnosed in 2006.
"As we mark another World AIDS Day on Monday, every American must recognize that the most critical step in the fight against HIV is knowing your status. While there are many free HIV testing resources available, we must face the fact that the strongest barrier to using them is our own fears. In 2006, I launched the "I Stand With Magic" program in partnership with Abbott, a global health care company to reduce the stigma of HIV in the African-American community; increase awareness of testing, prevention, and treatment; and, ultimately, reduce the rate of new HIV infections among African Americans.
"On World AIDS Day last year, my wife [Cookie] began a new outreach initiative aimed at educating African-American women about this disease. Sixty-four percent of women living with HIV/AIDS in 2005 were black. Further, HIV was the leading cause of death among black women ages 25 to 34 as of 2004. To help reduce those appalling numbers, we've implored church, community, and civic leaders and the general public to discourage the stigma that prevents people from getting tested and treated for HIV/AIDS.
"Every African-American community across the nation must mobilize for an all-out assault on HIV/AIDS if we are to conquer this dreadful disease. Let's start talking today."
The author is the board chair and founder of the Magic Johnson Foundation. Visit www.istandwithmagic.com.
11.28.2008; Earvin "Magic" Johnson