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Today is World AIDS Day, a day to not just remember those we’ve lost to the virus, but also to increase awareness. This year’s theme is “Focus, Partner, Achieve: An AIDS-free generation.”

Former NBA star Earvin “Magic” Johnson has been one of the most prominent faces of people living with the AIDS virus since announced his diagnosis in November of 1991. He spoke to the Tom Joyner Morning Show about his efforts to help combat the virus.

Worldwide, an estimated 34 million people are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. More than 35 million have died and 1.1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV including 506,000 who are Black. That’s over half of the people living with AIDS. Magic, any progress?

We’ve made progress. For me, now, it’s been 23 years. We’ve made some progress on the drugs. When I first announced, there was one. Now we have over 30 drugs. Make sure you go get tested because now the drugs can save your life. It’s important to get tested because a lot of us, Black and Latino, are walking around with it and don’t know they have it. So they are infecting other people. So it’s important to get tested, and it’s important to wrap it up.

 Obviously, that’s not working very well.

That’s why we urge people to get tested. What happens in our community is that you find out too late because you didn’t get tested and by the time you do get tested, the drugs can’t help save your life.

And we don’t want to wrap it up. And we don’t demand that men wrap it up.

The message is strong but we don’t adhere to it. We haven’t been protecting ourselves and our partners. The numbers are amazingly high in our young people so young people have to really educate themselves and protect themselves and their partners.

The numbers are growing for older people. 

We’re starting to see the numbers rise there. The numbers have never been big among our parents or grandparents but because they are sexually active now, the numbers are growing. The numbers have never been big, but they are growing.

What is your message for young people in particular? 

They have to educated themselves enough to know about the disease. A lot of times they don’t really know enough about HIV and AIDS. A lot of time they have misinformation and that causes them to be careless.

It seems like the message is the same. Wrap it up, wrap it up or you’re going to die. 

A lot of times young people don’t want to listen or they listen halfway. But not only do they have to deal with HIV/AIDS but teen pregnancy as well.

What about home testing? 

The good thing is that today you can do the home testing and it’s all been approved and you can find out in 20 minutes. They’ve all been approved it’s the same test they use in clinics. Privacy a lot of times stops us, especially in our community because people don’t want to see them going in or out of the clinic. Early detection is important. I had to get tested due to insurance. I had to get tested and if not for that physical, I wouldn’t be here today.

People see you doing well and think, well, I can live with it. And so there not taking the precautions. 

I’ve been the blessing and the curse for HIV and AIDS. I’ve been the blessing because I’m doing well, but I’ve been the curse because people see me doing well. But the virus acts differently in all of us. Just because I’m doing well, doesn’t meant that you’re going to do well. We have to go out and get tested and not be ashamed because that whole part of being ashamed that’s killing us, too.

For more information on African-Americans and HIV and AIDS, click here.

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A Tribute to Folks We Lost to AIDS
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