Roundup: World AIDS Day Activism


Magic Johnson says he’s now known just as much for his AIDS activism and investments in African American communities as  his days as one of the top basketball players in the country. Johnson retired from basketball when he announced he was HIV-positive in 1991. (And then un-retired, re-retired, un-re-retired, and finally retired.)

“Who would ever have thought that somebody would admire you and it’s not about basketball,” Johnson said with a laugh. “I haven’t played in 15 to 20 years and now when people come up to me it’s never about basketball. I guess I’ve turned the page on another chapter in my life.”

It began when Johnson met Elizabeth Glaser, the wife of actor Paul Michael Glaser and an early AIDS advocate who was dying of the disease, shortly after his announcement in November 1991. Glaser begged Johnson to become the face of the disease.

Johnson not only became a spokesman for treatment of the disease, he also founded the Magic Johnson Foundation, which has worked to promote more testing and give minority communities better access to treatment. Johnson has lent his name to five clinics that AHF has opened around the country in mostly African-American communities.

Johnson has also worked to integrate his activism with his basketball career.

Now the NBA meets with each team during training camp to discuss HIV and AIDS, and has sponsored a “Get Tested” campaign. Johnson was joined at a clinic opening in North Miami Beach by Alonzo Mourning and taped a public service announcement with Yao Ming for broadcast in China. Gasol has traveled to Angola and South Africa to promote AIDS awareness, an interest he relates to Johnson’s announcement.

In other World AIDS day news, perhaps geared to those who don’t know all the anchors of ESPN’s SportsCenter, Mondo Guerra, second place winner of Project Runway (he was robbed, y’all) has designed a t-shirt to benefit AIDS research.

There’s a reason Mondo Guerra shared his story about being HIV positive on the reality show “Project Runway.” It’s just at the time, he wasn’t quite sure what it was.

In hindsight, though, Guerra thinks he was compelled to it because “now I have the ability to bring attention to a cause,” he says.

“Things happen for a reason,” he adds. “Now that this is my life now, it has brought some opportunities. I think it’s inspired a lot of other people to be courageous and step forward.”

But you don’t have to be a world-class basketball player or a should-have-been-first-place fashion designer to make a huge impact on AIDS activism. The New York Times looks at college-age activists, and how they are making a difference:

Roughly a quarter-century after gay men rose up to demand better access to H.I.V. medicines, a new breed of AIDS advocate is growing up on college campuses. Unlike the first generation of patient-activists, this latest crop is composed of budding public health scholars. They are mostly heterosexual. Rare is the one who has lost friends or family members to the disease. Rather, studying under some of the world’s most prominent health intellectuals, they have witnessed the epidemic’s toll during summers or semesters abroad, in AIDS-ravaged nations like Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

The students have also befriended a longtime veteran of the AIDS wars, Gregg Gonsalves, who at 47 is completing his undergraduate degree in evolutionary biology on a full scholarship at Yale. Mr. Gonsalves often lectures public-health classes on what he calls “ancient history” — the work of groups like Act Up in the 1990s.

“Theirs is not a first-person commitment, in the sense that none of them is living with H.I.V.,” Mr. Gonsalves said of the new AIDS protesters. “It’s all based out of a sense of solidarity and social justice. I used to wonder where the next generation would come from. They’re here.”

Mini-Roundup: And in case you’re wondering why Kim Kardashian, Lady Gaga and other celebrities aren’t Tweeting today, it’s because they are keeping silent until a million dollars is raised for Keep A Child Alive, a charity that purchases AIDS drugs for India and Africa. The campaign image of Kardashian in a coffin, with the words “Kim Kardashian IS DEAD” is a little…questionable, considering by “dead” they mean she’s just not sending little messages over the interwebs.

Nov 30

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

To schedule an interview with contact director of communications Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.