Magic Johnson leads panel in preparation for World AIDS Day

magic johnson hiv
Magic Johnson headlined a panel discussion on HIV/AIDS awareness in the black community.
Credit: Earl Gibson III

Retired NBA superstar Magic Johnson wants the world to know he is the exception and not the rule when it comes to his HIV-positive status. He called it a blessing and a curse. “It’s a blessing because I came out as HIV-positive,” said Johnson. “But it’s a curse because now people think, if I get [HIV], I can be like magic and live a long time.”

Johnson became the face of the campaign to raise HIV awareness after he announced that he was HIV-positive in 1991. Over 20 years later, Johnson may still be the most famous HIV-positive celebrity in the world. Today, he leads an active and healthy life, thanks to a daily regimen of three medications and his wife’s care. “The medicine has done its part, and Cookie has done her part in staying on top of me and making sure I take my meds,” said Johnson. He stressed that his good health is due to the fact that he got tested for HIV when he did. “Early detection saved my life,” he said. For Johnson, detecting the virus early and managing it with medicine have been key in preventing AIDS symptoms and stopping it from progressing into AIDS.

Johnson joined media personality LaLa Anthony, Dr. Rachael Ross, Demetria Lucas and Pastor Toure Roberts at the Apollo Theater in Harlem to raise HIV awareness in the black community as World AIDS Day (Dec. 1) approaches. African-Americans are disproportionately affected by HIV in the U.S. According to the CDC, 44 percent of people living with HIV infection in 2009 were black, and blacks also made up 44% of new infections in 2009. “We’re in denial in our community,” said Johnson. “The numbers are staying around 50 percent. The numbers at historically black colleges and universities are going through the roof.”

The panelists discussed their goal to destigmatize HIV and testing and talked about how an at-home test like OraQuick, one of the event’s sponsors, can change the course of the future of the infection. “People are either not getting tested, or they get tested and they don’t get the results because they’re afraid to see them,” said Johnson. He added that some people drive as far as hours away to avoid seeing people they know at a clinic. “Find out at home instead of driving or walking,” he said.

The panel agreed that one of the biggest problems in educating the African-American community on HIV is the macho attitude prevalent among young black men. “Men think think nothing can happen to us,” said Johnson. “We were raised that way.” He pointed out that the audience was mainly made up of women. “We need to make this an all man room and talk man-to-man.” Lucas added that women should do their part in educating men as well. “We need to empower women,” she said. “Put the guy in a position where we say, ‘We cannot have sex until you get tested.’”

Ross said the biggest problem facing the community is a lack of education and denial. “The truth is, if you’ve had sex with someone, you are at risk,” she said. Lucas added, “So many people say it won’t happen to me, especially young people.”

Anthony said a common misconception she encounters when speaking out on HIV/AIDS is that it’s a “gay disease” and people who are heterosexual believe they’ll never contract HIV.

The panel agreed that black leaders in all industries and anyone who wields an influence over black youths need to do their part in educating the masses, especially those who are the least educated and most vulnerable to negative influences. “I know what it’s like to want to feel accepted and want to feel loved,” said Anthony. “I can relate to these women.” Johnson reminded the audience: “Poor doesn’t mean poor dreams,” he said, as the audience broke into applause.

Follow Andrea Park on Twitter: @andreapark



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Federal mediator joins Met Opera labor talks as…

Unions representing the orchestra and chorus of the Met Opera agreed to have a federal mediator join labor talks on Thursday as a threatened lockout loomed.

Local

Winning $7 million New York lottery ticket sold…

The only $7 million winning New York Lottery ticket for Monday's Cash4Life drawing was sold at a Queens 7-Eleven, officials said on Tuesday.

Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

Movies

Review: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is a refreshingly…

Marvel is sitting so high on a cash mountain that it's now thrown $170 million at the relatively obscure and very silly title "Guardians of the Galaxy."

Movies

Review: 'Get on Up' is a war between…

James Brown finally gets his own boring biopic with "Get on Up," but the Godfather of Soul puts up a good fight against the usual cliches.

Movies

Review: 'Child of God' finds director James Franco…

James Franco's 11th directed feature is a noble but sloppy adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's "Child of God," about a feral mountain man (Scott Haze).

Movies

Review: Alex Gibney's Fela Kuti doc 'Finding Fela'…

Prolific documentarian Alex Gibney takes on Afrobeat god Fela Kuti in "Finding Fela," but fails to capture his unique essence.

MLB

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade…

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade deadline

College

Playing the Field: Valentine's Day coupling edition

  It’s Valentine’s Day, a day created by Hallmark to make couples spend loads and loads of money on candy, flowers and gourmet dinners. Or…

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

Career

What do you wear to a career fair?…

Getting that gig starts with presenting the most polished and memorable version of yourself, so refer to our expert fashion advice.

Style

Editors pick: Margiela's finger armor ring

These cool rings from Maison Martin Margiela are designed to overlap over the finger, covering each joint like armor.

Style

Givenchy champions diversity

Riccardo Tisci's uses a variety of ethnically diverse ladies for his spring campaign including Erykah Badu.

Wellbeing

Don't settle for the hotel fitness center with…

Travelers who want to skip the hotel fitness center in favor of local gyms that may offer better equipment, classes and amenities can turn to…