20 years ago, basketball great, Magic Johnson, announced he was HIV-positive and immediately retired from the sport.
I remember where I was when the news broke and I remember the press conference. Magic was flanked by his wife Cookie and by his friend, teammate and equal powerhouse, Kareeem Abdul-Jabar.
At the time, the disease was linked to homosexuals, hemophiliac and junkies. And just like that, Magic broke that stereotype and whether or not he wanted to, he became the face of HIV/AIDS. People were subsequently, albeit slowly, more compassionate towards AIDS victims and less ignorant about the disease.
Magic made many rethink their sexually cavalier ways and is partly responsible for some of the “Safe Sex” campaigns we started seeing the nineties. And, for a late blooming teenager I was, it definitely put a monkey-wrench in the Hollywood-influenced vision of intimacy I had.
AIDS turns thirty this year. Scientists and doctors rightfully complain that funding is not sufficient as the disease is still very much rampant across the planet. It’s my personal belief the disease has yet to be cured because first, it’s too profitable to pharmaceutical companies and second, because a very large number of victims are in Africa. I hope I’m wrong and if I’m not, please educate me.
Aside from the lack of funding, AIDS no longer makes headline news when clearly, it should. Do we care less today because the victims aren’t celebrities? Again, I hope I’m wrong.