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Magic Johnson keeps up HIV fight
  Former MSU, NBA star has opened four clinics, but none in Detroit where need is growing.
Fred Girard / The Detroit News
Former Lakers star Magic Johnson announces that he is HIV positive and retiring from basketball in 1991. He continues to talk about the disease.


It has been a decade and a half now since Earvin "Magic" Johnson stunned a nation with the admission he had contracted HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS.
It was Nov. 7, 1991, when Johnson looked somberly into the television cameras, and said, "Because of the HIV virus that I have obtained, I will have to retire from the Lakers. I think sometimes we think, 'Well, only gay people can get it, only -- well, it's not going to happen to me.' And here I am saying that it can happen to anybody. Even me, Magic Johnson, it can happen to."
Blessed by his enormous fortune and an unparalleled support system, Johnson has maintained his health through the best of care.
But, Johnson said in an interview on the "Oprah" show Oct. 26, he has not been cured.
"The real story is, I've been living with HIV for 15 years," he said. "No, I'm not cured. And I think that I've just been blessed. I've been able to take my medicine, work out, and do the right things. And that's why I've been doing so well."
His concern now is the minority community, especially black women, among whom new cases of HIV/AIDS and deaths have spiraled in recent years.
Johnson has opened four clinics where victims can obtain information, treatment and other help -- three in California, in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland; and one in Jacksonville, Fla.
"I've been out trying to talk to, especially minorities, because it's affecting our community, HIV and AIDS, in a big way," Johnson said a year ago on "The Charlie Rose Show."
"So I've been active in trying to make sure -- get the word out about this virus and how it is affecting the minority community."
But Johnson can't be everywhere, and one of the places he has not been is Detroit.
"I'll never understand that one," said Janet Threatt, program director at Simon House, a shelter in Detroit for infected women and their children. "Magic's focus seems to be on New York, Hollywood, where the stars are. We have a critical need for him to be talking about HIV right here in Detroit, but he does not support a single program here in Michigan. That's the most amazing thing to me."
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta show that minority women in Michigan are contracting the virus in ever-increasing numbers, even as other nationwide trends are down.
In Michigan, the CDC numbers show there were 1,157 heterosexual women living with HIV/AIDS last year -- nearly seven out of 10 of them African-American.
"We get more and more and more women every year," Threatt said. "Our beds are never empty.
"The other trend we see here is so many young people being infected. It's unfortunate and sad."
Royale Theus, program director of the Midwest AIDS Prevention Project, said those who are contracting the disease in Detroit are "younger and younger, and the numbers are still on the rise, especially in the 18-24 age group."
Theus expressed gratitude to Johnson for his announcement 15 years ago.
"When (Johnson) said he was HIV positive," Theus said, "a lot of people went out and got themselves HIV-tested. But that trend only lasted a year or so."
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