Posted Dec 1 2008 10:48AM
When Magic Johnson was diagnosed with HIV in 1991, there was only one drug to combat the deadly disease. Seventeen years later, there are a total of 27. Johnson launched the Magic Johnson Foundation in 1991 to combat HIV and raise awareness, which he has steadfastly done to this day, whether it's crisscrossing the country or taping PSAs such as "I Stand With Magic" to educate the African American community, which comprises at least half of the new HIV cases that have occurred.
The theme for World AIDS Day 2008 is leadership in conjunction with its slogan-- Stop AIDS. Keep the promise. Johnson spoke with NBA.com's John Hareas and reflected on World AIDS Day and the efforts of his foundation, which has since expanded its charitable goals.
NBA.com: What does World AIDS Day mean to you?
Magic Johnson: Well, it's a great day and a sad day. It means that a lot of people have died from a deadly disease -- HIV and AIDS. And it's a good day in terms of we've been out there educating people about the disease. This day also raises the awareness level of the disease. We're going to try to continue to make sure people will not hopefully get HIV, contract the disease. Through all the great drugs we have, stop people from dying from it.
NBA.com: What's the biggest challenge facing the HIV/AIDS community?
Magic Johnson: Making sure we bring the numbers down in the minority community because right now, we make up over 50 percent of all the new cases and we've got to change that. And that's my whole goal. In the last three years, I've visited 200 churches, 200 high schools and colleges speaking about HIV and AIDS.
NBA.com: How do you plan on making HIV/AIDS a priority for the next administration? Magic Johnson: I'm waiting to see whose gonna be their AIDS czar and then we will probably have conversations with that person and take it from there.
NBA.com: You're in terrific physical shape. What allows you to stay so fit?
Magic Johnson: The No. 1 thing is to make sure I work out, exercise. I have a proper diet and making sure that I eat right. Those are the main things. I also go to the gym five days a week.
NBA.com: You are an inspiration for so many people around the world. What inspires you?
Magic Johnson: My wife and my three kids.
NBA.com: How has the Magic Johnson Foundation evolved over the years?
Magic Johnson: We have evolved in a big way. We have almost 200 kids on scholarship through the Magic Johnson Foundation-Taylor Michael Scholarship Fund. We have 22 Magic Johnson Technology Centers where kids can have access to a computer and their parents and grandparents. We have really evolved. We have our annual toy drive, our job fairs. We've grown by leaps and bounds. And, then we have, of course, our HIV and AIDS clinics. We have five of those. We'll continue to grow and help people. That's what we're all about -- giving back and helping people.
NBA.com: Is the Foundation what you envisioned when you founded it back in 1991?
Magic Johnson: Yes and better. It's all that I wanted it to be and better because we are a grassroots foundation, we're right in the heart of the community and everything we do is right in the community.
NBA.com: Where do you see the foundation in the next five years?
Magic Johnson: To continue to address all of the social, health, economic and educational needs of minorities across the country. Instead of just having a couple of hundred students at a time on our scholarship program, I hope we have thousands at a time.
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