Black Affairs, Africa and Development

Magic Johnson Still Beating HIV 20 Years Later

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If Magic Johnson had known just how well he could live with HIV, he wouldn’t have retired from the Lakers on Nov. 7, 1991.

Johnson would never change what he did for the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic when he publicly revealed his diagnosis to a stunned world. His courage that day, along with two subsequent decades of vibrant living, forever altered attitudes about the virus and its effects.

Magic is simply glad the world knows such happy endings are possible with access to treatment and vigilance.

“At that time, it was the right decision,” Johnson said Monday on the 20th anniversary of his stunning retirement. “If I knew what I knew today, that I could still play basketball and do my thing, I probably wouldn’t have retired. But I’m a guy that doesn’t have regrets. I don’t look back. I’m happy, because I wanted to be here a long time. We made the right call at that time.”

Johnson recognized the occasion at Staples Center on Monday with an upbeat celebration and a message of steadfastness. Dozens of politicians, celebrities and Lakers greats from Jerry West and Pat Riley to James Worthy and Michael Cooper joined Johnson and AIDS researcher David Ho for a luncheon, and the Magic Johnson Foundation announced a $1 million gift to continue its mission for worldwide HIV awareness and testing.

Two decades after his shocking admission and quick retirement at 32, Johnson’s doctors say he’s a 52-year-old specimen of health, comfortably managing HIV with a daily regimen of drugs and exercise.

While he once took upwards of 15 pills several times a day, he now requires just a few daily medications. He rises around 5 a.m. each day for a vigorous workout – everything from stretching and running to Tae Bo – before spending his days overseeing his large business empire.

Yet Johnson worries his strong health could encourage complacency, and he sees the anniversary of his historic announcement as a call to renew dedication to the cause.

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