Fight against HIV continues 20 years after Magic Johnson's announcement

Twenty years ago today, Magic Johnson stunned the sports world by announcing he had contracted the virus that causes AIDS.

"Because of the HIV virus that I have attained I will have to retire from the Lakers today," are the words Johnson said Nov. 7, 1991, that stunned the world.

Back then, many believed the basketball hall-of-famer wouldn't be around much longer. But today, he's one of 33,000,0000 people living with HIV.

By stepping forward Johnson put a very public face on something many then considered a death sentence.

"In 1991 about 10 years into the known epic still only a few meds to treat HIV infection most people go onto to die within a few years of diagnosis and Magic Johnson was no different from anyone else," said AIDS researcher Dr. David Ho.

Two decades later, HIV-AIDS advocates are still in the fight to educate, test, and treat patients here in Kentucky, where a new person is infected each day.

Local AIDS advocates say the fact that Johnson is doing so well is testament to the advances in treatment for the virus. But in terms of stigma, they say there is still much work to do.

"It's still hard to get people to test in our rural communities. We cover 72 of them. We had a man test positive, and he's been ostracized there. He says he might have to move," said Jessica Noto, with the Fayette County Health Department.

While 20 years after Magic announcements, there have been changes in perceptions and affected populations, the overall message of prevention is still the same.

"Get tested. You have to know your status," said Mark Royse, with AIDS Volunteers INC.


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