When Magic Johnson proclaimed to the world 22 years ago that he had contracted HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, the business mogul and former Los Angeles Lakers player dedicated his life to educating people about HIV/AIDS, thanks to the encouragement of AIDS activist Elizabeth Glaser. Today he urges blacks and Hispanics to get tested.
Black Americans account for about 44 percent of new HIV infections each year and are more likely to die from the disease. Hispanic Americans are also more likely to die from HIV than white Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Hispanics make up 21 per cent of new infections each year. About 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV, with almost one in five unaware of their infection.
“We have to drive people to get tested, because that’s the most important thing. The stigma and fear of knowing their status’ is holding people back,” Magic tells the media. His admission came in 1991; “At that time, people were really dying of AIDS. I was just scared to death,” he admits.
His wife, Cookie, was two months pregnant at the time and tested negative. Magic and Cookie are leading advocates for HIV awareness.
He commends his mentor. “The one thing she [Glaser] did say was I was going to live for a long time. And the thing that she asked me to do was become the face of the disease. She felt it was really important that I go public to help a lot of other people who were living the same lifestyle who didn’t know they had HIV and needed to get tested … And she was absolutely right,” says the former 6-9 point guard who was one of the greatest players in college and pro basketball history.
Elizabeth Glaser contracted HIV in a blood transfusion in 1981 while giving birth to her daughter Ariel. She passed away in 1994.