If you were a child or teenager in the 90s, one of the most sobering and frightening pop culture moments came when basketball great Magic Johnson announced that he was HIV positive. (Video below.)
At the time of his diagnosis, testing positive for HIV was seen as a death sentence. Few people were living long with the illness, and medications that extend the life of those living with the virus were in their infancy. The athlete’s diagnosis was held up as a cautionary tale, and Johnson immediately retired from the game. (He eventually returned, but several active players protested his involvement due to fears of contamination from open wounds.)
Johnson was one of the first heterosexual, high-profile individuals to come forward with a positive diagnosis, and the basketball star was determined to use the bad news as a springboard to educate HIV-negative people about the risks of HIV infection as well as provide inspiration to individuals living with HIV or AIDS. The press conference in which Johnson calmly delivered the news occurred 20 years ago today, and in the intervening years, Johnson has done both exceedingly well.
Staying healthy on a cocktail of medications and returning to the game, Johnson has been active in working towards HIV awareness as well as appearing in ads for medications to halt the virus’ progress. He has also since become a grandfather, and many point out that the athlete was the only person who managed to keep an upbeat demeanor on news of his diagnosis. At the time, he said to the shocked crowd of reporters:
“I plan on going on living for a long time. I guess now I get to enjoy some of the other sides of living.”
Even now, Johnson maintains the same positive attitude. Yesterday, he tweeted:
Excited for a big day tomorrow celebrating 20 years. Thank you to everyone for the kind words and support.
Did you think Johnson would survive twenty years? Do you still worry about HIV?