25th anniversary of HIV announcement that shocked the US
Basketball legend Magic Johnson urged people on Monday to continue the fight against AIDS on the 25th anniversary of the announcement he was HIV positive.
The 57-year-old was one of the America’s National Basketball Association’s (NBA) biggest stars when on Nov. 7, 1991 he held a press conference announcing he had contracted the deadly virus and would be retiring from his sport with immediate effect.
The then Los Angeles Lakers player’s confession shocked the public because at the time the disease, which causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), was thought likely to kill sufferers within a few years of diagnosis.
HIV and AIDS also carried a social stigma due to it being associated with the gay community and drug users and the perceived risk of sufferers passing on the virus, which is transmitted by sexual contact or through the blood.
On Monday Magic told TMZ.com, “25 years later, I’m thanking God for being here, man I still can’t believe it. I remember the press conference… (and thank) my teammates for supporting me, all the fans (for) supporting me.”
The sporting superstar, who after his diagnosis founded a foundation to help combat the disease said he was happy that medical progress meant contracting HIV was no longer a death sentence.
“We’ve saved a lot of lives but also a lot of people have died too but the numbers are coming down,” he explained. “The HIV and AIDS fight is still there and we’ve got to continue to educate people.”
Magic, who was praised by then U.S. President George H. W. Bush as a “hero” after his announcement and returned to basketball by competing in the 1992 Olympic Games, revealed the day also left him with mixed emotions.
“It’s bittersweet because yes, I’m doing well, I’m still here 25 years later but I wish everybody was still here and so I pray for them and their families, they’ve lost loved ones to this deadly disease,” he added.