Magic Johnson: 20 years living with HIV

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by GEORGE RIBA

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WFAA

Posted on November 7, 2011 at 9:07 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 7 at 9:07 PM

DALLAS — It was 20 years ago Monday that Magic Johnson shocked the NBA community with the announcement that he was HIV-positive.

"I think you just have to come out swinging, and I’m swinging," Johnson said at a news conference that day. "I plan on going on living for a long time."

Johnson's announcement that day was the beginning of a change in the perception of what it means to live with HIV. His shocking announcement made people take notice.

"To shift that mindset when people had to wake up and go, 'Oh wow, this could happen to me,'" said Cece Cox, executive director and CEO of Resource Center Dallas. She said Johnson's revelation raised the visibility of HIV, but the process of educating the public goes on.

"Magic Johnson ... helped people focus on the fact that people need to pay attention and protect themselves," Cox said. "Still, 20 years after his disclosure, we know it's preventable and people are still getting infected."

Before Johnson's announcement, some would say that the NBA was very nonchalant about how they handled blood from cuts during basketball game. Now when blood is spotted, there is an automatic timeout.

It's called an "infection control" timeout, and the main infection they're trying to control is HIV.

On the 20th anniversary of his historic announcement, Magic Johnson talked about living with HIV in Los Angeles.

"I've always been a leader my whole life," Johnson said. "I've always led. I don't know how to do anything else. I never thought I'd had to lead in the HIV and AIDS community."

Johnson's former coach, Pat Riley, helped raise a million dollars for the Magic Johnson Foundation. It was Riley who was coaching in New York at the time and who led a prayer for Johnson 20 years ago Monday night.

Johnson thanked Riley for his prayers. "You put the 'Magic' in Ervin Johnson, and I appreciate that," Johnson said. "Just thank you."

E-mail griba@wfaa.com

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