Nearly 20 years ago, in November 1991, Magic Johnson courageously announced that he was HIV positive and retiring from the NBA Lakers.
Magic Johnson is one of the most notable and admired public figures speaking out. I find that most people don’t want to discuss HIV, but they are fine discussing HIV in the context of Magic Johnson. When I bring up the Magic Johnson topic in conversation and ask people what they think is going on with him and his HIV, people seem to think that his case is ‘special’ and that the only reason he has lived so long is because he can afford the best medication that money can buy. That is true, but what people don’t seem to understand is that anyone with health insurance can afford the same medicine that Magic Johnson takes (although it may not be affordable in 3rd world countries yet). The truth is – there is nothing special about his case. He eats well, exercises, takes his meds and has an excellent long term prognosis. He is leading a normal healthy life with HIV like many others who have access to meds and diligently adhere to their treatment.
Other people I have spoken with had heard that Magic is ‘undetectable’ and thought that meant he was ‘cured’ which is an excellent opportunity to discuss what ‘undetectable’ really means and how it relates to being ‘close to non-infectious‘. People are always hugging Magic Johnson and nobody seems alarmed, so I use this as a starter point for discussing transmission.
So thank you Magic Johnson! Through you I have finally found a way to bring up the topic of HIV and educate people about the realities of day to day life with HIV and the realities of transmission. Thank you for your courageous way of openly living with and talking about HIV since the very beginning. You are single-handedly bringing enormous awareness.