As we all know, HIV also affects celebrities. Some of them decide not to talk about it too much or say nothing at all and others choose to promote HIV awareness and educate others about their experience. I admire the last ones because being a public figure is a very powerful thing and using it for a good purpose says a lot in their favour.
The celebrity in question I’ll talk about this time is Magic Johnson, a former star of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team. After winning the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Awards and four championships with the Lakers during the 80s his career looked most promising. Little he knew about the life-changing news he received when he was 32 years old, married and expecting his second son.
After getting a blood test, his team’s doctor told him he had HIV. Afterwards, Magic told Oprah on her show that he lay on the floor for two hours and said he was convinced he was going to die.
“I was just devastated, blown away,” Johnson recalled to CBSNews.com. “We have to remember at that time, people were really dying of AIDS. I was just scared to death.”
Click here to watch his first public announcement about contracting the virus. This was a very inspiring speech; back in the 90’s people were (and still are) fearful to talk about their condition.
“Cookie (wife) was fearful about the reaction of people ... [HIV was something] you had to whisper about," the 54-year-old explained at a recent press event. "At that time, AIDS was a death sentence. And now, things have changed." However, she remained by his side and encouraged him to speak up.
When it first started hitting America and Europe, HIV was a massive stigma because those days more people were dying of AIDS and there were fewer treatments available. Despite this, influenced by his wife and a meeting with the AIDS activist Elizabeth Glaser, he decided to tell the world about his condition and campaign to raise awareness. Since then, which is 22 years ago, Magic and Cookie (she tested negative along with their son Earvin) have been advocates of HIV awareness, with Johnson recently campaigning in Harlem’s Apollo Theatre to talk about the high rates of infection among the Black and Hispanic community in the US and – just in time for the World AIDS Day last month – he promoted the new Orasure’s OraQuick HIV test that you can take at home and have the results in 20 minutes.
"We have to drive people to get tested, because that's the most important thing," said Johnson. “The stigma and fear of knowing their status is holding people back. That’s why early detection is such a key," he added. “You should want to know your status and we can put you on some drugs. You can live a long time and a healthy life like I am.”
He’s such a great example. Needless for me to say anything else apart from: Do not underestimate HIV and think it doesn’t matter if it ever happens because you’ll get treated. The virus affects each person differently and there could be side effects to it and that’s when prevention becomes fundamental.