It was 20 years ago today that Magic Johnson, now 52 years-old, retired from the Lakers basketball team while announcing his diagnosis of HIV, a virus that causes AIDS. Johnson said in the news conference, “I just want to make it clear, first of all, that I do not have the AIDS disease.” Back 20 years, people believed that Magic Johnson wouldn’t live very long.
In the 1991 press conference for the announcment of Magic Johnson retiring he stated:
“I plan on going on living for a long time. I guess now I get to enjoy some of the other sides of living.”
With the help of drugs, Magic Johnson has been able to survive longer than what most people imagined. He takes the same kinds of drugs that other people who are diagnosed with HIV take. The only difference is, Johnson got to try the experimental drugs before they went to the general public, just like those people in clinical trials get to.
“I think sometimes we think, well, only gay people can get it – ‘It’s not going to happen to me’. And here I am saying that it can happen to anybody, even me, Magic Johnson,” he stated in the press conference in 1991.
Only months later, in 1992, Magic Johnson went back to play in the NBA All-Star game and became a member of the U.S. Dream Team in the Olympics. Then he would retire again before the 1995-96 season. Johnson recently said that he regretted retiring for the second time.
Johnson created the Magic Johnson Foundation to help educate people about HIV and AIDS. It has raised millions of dollars for HIV and AIDS outreach. BET reported that, “This year, the foundation commemorated Johnson’s work with the MJF: 20 program, which includes special events leading up to the 20th anniversary, including setting up locations where people can receive HIV testing on November 7.”
The Magic Johnson Foundation has full-service treatment centers in three locations in California; Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and one in Jacksonville, Florida., that offer free or low-cost health care for those dealing with the virus. According to their website, they have tested nearly 30,000 people and given 1,000 positive diagnoses for the virus.
“When God gave me this disease, he gave it to the right person,” Johnson told Lakers head athletic trainer Garry Vitt, in 1991. “I’m gonna do something really good with this. I’m gonna beat this.”
Almost 1.2 million people are still living with HIV today and 1 out of 5 of them don’t even know they are infected with the disease. The Centers for Disease Control still reports that Blacks have the highest rank among racial groups in the U.S. to be infected with the HIV virus.
Watch Magic Johnson’s 1991 news press conference with his announcement of retirement and HIV virus below: