LOS ANGELES - It’s been 30 years since former Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Earvin "Magic" Johnson shocked the world and publicly disclosed he was diagnosed with HIV.
"God has really blessed me!" the 62-year-old tweeted Sunday. "Today marks 30 years living with HIV so the message resonated with me in such a tremendous way. I thank the Lord for keeping me, giving me strength, and guiding me for 62 years but especially the last 30."
"Through it all I learned to trust in Jesus and I learned to trust in God!" he continued.
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it weakens a person’s immune system by destroying important cells that fight disease and infection. There is currently no effective cure for HIV. But with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. If not treated, HIV could turn into AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
Johnson, who played for the Lakers from 1979 to 1992, disclosed in November 1991 that he was HIV-positive. He coached the team for the final 16 games of the 1993-94 season and came out of retirement to play the second half of that season before retiring for good. He then went on to own a small portion of the Lakers.
Johnson believed he contracted the virus after having many sexual relations with various women.
In a single, stunning revelation, Johnson seared AIDS awareness onto public consciousness like nobody before him.
Activists said the 6-foot-9 athlete with the million-dollar grin became the perfect ambassador in the effort to raise understanding, compassion and money for people with AIDS and those, like Johnson, who are infected with the AIDS-causing virus.
Johnson’s announcement was felt across the country and overseas. Many American newspapers ran banner headlines and page after page of coverage. The story received nearly equal treatment in some other countries, including Japan and Israel. In Spain, the daily El Pais had two pages on ″The Magic Man: A Living Legend and a Myth in World Sport.″
In Germany, the news agency SID wrote: ″Earvin Johnson’s declaration, which in America received as many headlines and as much broadcast time as the beginning of the Gulf War, has done more for those who suffer with him than all previous efforts.″
Shortly after his announcement, at AIDS clinics and hot line services, the effects were also seen. The hot line at the CDC - which normally gets about 3,000 telephone calls daily - got 40,000 between 5 p.m. and midnight in a single day. In Missouri, the volume of people coming in for AIDS tests doubled the morning after Johnson’s announcement.
According to the CDC, in 2019, 36,801 people received an HIV diagnosis in the U.S. and U.S. territories. There were 15,815 deaths among adults and adolescents with diagnosed HIV in the U.S. and U.S. territories, according to the agency. However, these deaths could be from any cause.
A potential HIV vaccine, looking to mirror mRNA COVID-19 vaccine technology, is showing promising results in phase 1 clinical trial testing, according to developers.
Researchers at the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and Scripps Research said the vaccine had success in producing rare immune cells that trigger antibodies to keep the virus from mutating. The response was shown in 97% of participants who received the vaccine, according to the organizations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.