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Magic Johnson Visits South Carolina
 
 
  'Magic' lessons about HIV/AIDS
 
By CZERNE M. REID
Good Medicine
http://www.thestate.com
 
Five busloads of South Carolinians recently rode to Charlotte to hear Earvin "Magic" Johnson talk about his experience living with HIV/AIDS and about the disease's impact on blacks.
 
The 200-plus group included people living with HIV/AIDS, case managers, community advocates and USC football legend George Rogers.
 
It wasn't Johnson's glory days as point guard with the Lakers that drew a crowd. The 1,500 people who filled Little Rock AME Zion Church went to hear his personal story.
 
The event was part of Johnson's "I Stand with Magic" campaign, backed by Abbott Pharmaceuticals. Representative Reed Morton, a former Gamecock kicker, arranged the S.C. bus trip.
 
Through the campaign, Johnson strives to inform communities about HIV prevention, testing and treatment.
 
"It was good to hear from someone who was a celebrity with HIV," said J.T., who became infected with HIV in 1992. "(To see that) it affects everybody, regardless of whether you're rich, poor, black, white or whatever."
 
He was surprised at how healthy Johnson looked. "I didn't expect him to look as good as he did," J.T. said.
 
But what struck him most was when Johnson said one of the worst things people with HIV/AIDS can do is to stop taking their medicine when they start feeling good.
 
J.T. also was impressed that Johnson asked the young people in the audience to stand and talked with them about avoiding HIV infection.
 
Wilhelmina Dixon brought along her 12-year-old granddaughter, whom she has adopted, who was born HIV-positive. She is encouraging the girl to talk with children in her community about the disease.
 
"She can bring some other children out, just like Magic brought people out," Dixon said.
 
L.J., who tested positive for HIV in 2002, said although he was already aware of many of the things Johnson spoke about, it was good to share the experience with people who made him feel comfortable.
 
Pamela Davis, director of the HIV Program at Brookland Baptist Church in West Columbia, took 12 people from her group to Charlotte. She wanted them to see that even with HIV/AIDS, they can lead full lives if they take care of themselves and take their medications faithfully.
 
"He gave hope to not only those who are living with HIV/AIDS, but those not living with it and challenged them to go out and teach others," she said of Johnson.
 
USC's Rogers was happy to see Magic, but he was more touched by the statistics of HIV/AIDS among blacks, especially women.
 
While blacks make up 12 percent of the U.S. population, they accounted for almost half of AIDS cases diagnosed in 2005. Black women accounted for 67 percent of new AIDS cases among all women in 2005 and for more than a third of cases among all blacks.
 
Rogers said he will be thinking about how the George Rogers Foundation, which raises scholarship money for USC students, can start helping with HIV/AIDS prevention and care.
 
"This thing can be controlled," he said. "But first you have to be educated about it."
 
 
 
 
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