Tag Archives: United States

HIV-positive Magic Johnson locked himself in bathroom to reveal diagnosis to lovers

Magic and Cookie Johnson recently celebrated 25 years of marriage (Getty Images)

Magic and Cookie Johnson recently celebrated 25 years of marriage (Getty Images)

Dealing with the magnitude of his HIV diagnosis was never going to be an easy task, but Magic Johnson’s wife has recalled how the former basketball star went into survival mode when having to inform his lovers that he had the disease. In her new memoir, Cookie Johnson reveals that the Lakers point guard ‘locked himself in a room and called the long list of women with whom he’d been intimate.’

The designer, and spouse of the NBA Hall of Famer, writes of how her husband’s health status rocked the foundation of her marriage in her book Believing In Magic, which is out later this month.

“In just one moment our world, this perfect union we’d fought so hard and so long to have was obliterated.”

And just like the scores of women who were forced to endure the 12-day wait to find out their fate, Cookie says she felt like she was living in her ‘own personal hell’.

Although human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can cause the immune system to fail, which leads to life-threatening infections and cancers to thrive – ie. acquired immune deficiency syndrome (Aids) – at the time, many believed they were the same thing.

“Every morning I would wake up in a panic, worried that I too might be HIV positive and die. Or worse, that my baby would be sick and not make it,” she explains in excerpts serialised by the Daily Mail. “The stress coursed through my veins like a poison, occupying practically every moment of my day.”

The book delves into the impact on his family by his decision to go public with his HIV diagnosis, and to quit the NBA in 1991. Cookie was pregnant with their first child, EJ, at the time. In the weeks leading up to the conference in 1991, the Lakers had informed press that he was suffering from flu-like symptoms and jet lag.

(Want to know more about Magic’s ‘Announcement’? Click here)

Despite retiring from the game, he returned to the game 1992 NBA All-Star Game, where he took home the MVP award, then played 32 games in 1995-96.

After enduring speculation that he was gay or bisexual, the 56-year-old former sportsman he has been working tirelessly with the Magic Johnson Foundation to eradicate the stigma that surrounds the disease.

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Magic Johnson – The Announcment

“The Announcement” (Documentary: Tomorrow night on BT Sport 1 (Sky: 413 / Virgin 530).  Magic Johnson narrates a powerful and moving documentary about his announcement in 1991 that he had the HIV virus.

Magic Johnson is a retired American professional basketball player who played point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA).  After winning championships in high school and college, he was selected first overall in the 1979 NBA Draft by the Lakers.

He won a championship and an NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award in his rookie season, and won four more championships with the Lakers during the 1980s

After a physical before the 1991–92 NBA season, Johnson discovered that he had tested positive for HIV.  In a press conference held in November, 1991 he made a public announcement that he would retire immediately and stated that his wife Cookie and their unborn child did not have HIV, and that he would dedicate his life to “battle this deadly disease”.  He went on to play on the 1992 gold medal Olympic Team and said he considered a comeback, but was disheartened when other players said they were scared they would contract the virus from his blood.

At the time, November 1991, his decision to announce his diagnosis to the world was considered exceptionally brave, since HIV/AIDS was heavily stigmatised to a greater degree than today.  Magic’s campaigns were pivotal in demonstrating to the world that the risk of infection was not limited to a specific creed of people.  Magic stated that his aim was to “help educate all people about what HIV is about” and teach others not to “discriminate against people who have HIV and AIDS” and when Johnson announced he had the virus, people started to realise the disease could – and was – affecting anyone.

The announcement became a major news story in the United States, and in 2004 was named as ESPN’s seventh most memorable moment of the past 25 years.  Many articles praise him as a hero, and former U.S. President George H. W. Bush said, “For me, Magic is a hero, a hero for anyone who loves sports.

After announcing his HIV status he created the Magic Johnson Foundation to help combat HIV and later, diversified the foundation to include other charitable goals.  In 1992, he joined the National Commission on AIDS, but left after eight months, saying that the commission was not doing enough to combat the disease.  He was also the main speaker for the United Nations (UN) World AIDS Day Conference in 1999 and has served as a United Nations Messenger of Peace.

Twenty years on and the former NBA great still devotes much time and effort to raise money for research and is an inspiration to many.  He remains a living face for HIV education and activism and for many, is an inspiration to HIV positive individuals and their friends and families.

He said he never considered not coming forward with the details of his diagnosis, because he wanted to be a face to help de-stigmatise  the virus and raise awareness for the less famous or privileged victims dying daily.

Johnson is still reportedly in good health, which he credits with Anti-HIV medicine, exercise, and a great support system.

He travels nationwide giving motivational speeches and works with public officials from the UN and international AIDS foundations to fight for policy, awareness and clinics that benefit victims worldwide. Though he says he is sometimes reminiscent of his basketball days, he is most proud of his accomplishments off the court to help fight the battle against HIV/AIDS.

Now, over twenty years after contracting a disease that was supposed to kill him, Magic Johnson is killing the disease by using his celebrity to raise millions for HIV/AIDS research.

The Announcment” is a documentary, directed by Nelson George and narrated by Magic Johnson and is Magic’s second film on HIV (The award-winning “Life Support” for HBO in 2007, starring Queen Latifah is the first).  He said, “For me, “The Announcement” is not just a look back at a fraught, unforgettable moment in U.S. history, but a vehicle for re-introducing the subject of HIV/AIDS to an audience that may not know that [people] are still getting infected and, yes, still dying from this big disease with a little name.

Article collated from Wikipedia, ESPN Films, TSN and Positivelife.

It’s worth watching and if you have BT Sport 1, set your recorder for 11:30pm tomorrow (Tues 19th) night.

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TWB  FBB

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LASS 25 Year History Final Event

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Dear Colleagues and Friends

Leicestershire AIDS Support Services (LASS) is marking the end of our Heritage Lottery funded 25 year history project with 2 workshops as we hand over our fascinating and informative archive to the Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record office for public access and safe keeping.

The workshops and handover will take place on 11th July 2013 here at LASS and repeated in Wigston.  We will also launch our mobile display which you will be able to take away with you in your pockets to share with each other.

Our guest speaker, Dr Richard Mckay will provide some insights into his research on 30 years of AIDS as context for our local history.

Dr Richard Mc Kay, Wellcome Trust Fellow in the Department of History at the University of Oxford, completed his doctorate in history at the University of Oxford where his thesis focused on the emergence & dissemination of the “Patient zero” concept. His book, provisionally entitled “Patient Zero: Public health, the Media & the Making of the North American AIDS Epidemic, is under contract with the University of Chicago Press.  His current research explores the process by which healthcare workers & other groups became increasingly concerned with the role played by men who had sex with men in the transmission of venereal disease, & focusing on the middle decades of the 20th century in Canada, US & UK.

LASS works with many partners locally, regionally and nationally in driving our messages on safe sex, HIV testing and living positively. The dynamics and demographics of HIV/AIDS have changed from the death sentence it was 25 years ago to the positive living approach that we promote as one of our services here at LASS today.

We would like you to come along to our special celebration day on 11th July 2013 here at LASS or at Wigston.  For more information, please download our flyer for your information. We value your participation, but please do register in advance as places are limited.  Light refreshments will be available.

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Birth of one millionth HIV-free baby!

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Global AIDS Coordinator, Eric Goosby, has revealed that somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa this month, the one millionth baby will be born without HIV to a HIV positive mother.

This threshold, according to Goosby, is due largely in part to a decade-old aid programme – U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, known by its acronym PEPFAR.

With this record, agency report Tuesday indicated that it is yet another remarkable step in the long fight against HIV and AIDS, as the United States and its global partners work towards what they call an AIDS-free generation, which just a decade ago would have been unimaginable.

Mother-to-baby transmission has long been a source of concern among governments and organisations working to control the spread of HIV.

But more effective anti-retroviral drugs and regimens are now dramatically cutting the chances of an infected mother passing on the disease to her baby during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

The millionth baby born HIV-free was Tuesday trumpeted as part of celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of the PEPFAR.

The biggest fall in transmission rates from mom to infant came since 2009, Goosby told Agence France Presse (AFP).

The programme was working to “virtually eliminate pediatric HIV by 2015 and keep their mothers alive,” he said, with aim of reducing the number of babies born with the infection to around 30,000 yearly.

This is “a significant flag for PEPFAR” which works in 36 countries in partnership with UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO), he added, pointing to all the difficulties in reaching women in rural, poor and remote areas of the world.

This involves not just identifying the mother, but getting her on a drugs programme and keeping her in treatment through that pregnancy and any later pregnancies – not always an easy task in rural Africa.

Once the chances of a mother infecting her baby stood at around 30 per cent, but now with the launch of a cocktail of three anti-retroviral drugs that has dropped to only about two per cent, Goosby said.

In the absence of a medical breakthrough leading to a cure, experts are working towards a so-called “tipping point” when fewer people contract HIV every year than the number of people going onto treatments.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, hosting Tuesday’s ceremony, was also to announce that some 13 countries, from Botswana to Zimbabwe, were close to that all important “tipping point.”

In Ethiopia and Malawi, the ratio of new HIV infections to the increase of patients on treatment is just 0.3. The figures are startling.

Ethiopia – which with a population of 84.7 million – for instance registered only 11,000 new cases of HIV in adults in 2011.

Launched under former president George W. Bush, PEPFAR was an initial commitment of some $15 billion over five years aimed specifically to provide anti-retroviral drugs to HIV infected people.

That has risen to a budget of about $5.5 billion annually, including its contribution to the Global Fund — the world’s largest financing organization of programs to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

And although some 1.7 million people still die every year from AIDS-related illnesses, PEPFAR supports more than 5.1 million on treatment programs.

The programme estimates that worldwide more than 16 million children are living without one or both parents who have succumbed to AIDS, while millions more are left vulnerable with their parents chronically ill.

“With the PEPFAR program we’ve been able to very specifically target 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa which make up about 85-90 percent of the pediatric burden on the planet,” said Goosby.

Globally new HIV infections have fallen some 19 percent in the past decade, and AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 26 percent since a peak in 2005.

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Why are we afraid to get tested for HIV?

testing

For some people the idea of being tested for HIV is as simple as making a note in a calendar, an entry which sits comfortably beneath a dentist appointment and above a mother’s birthday. For others, the idea of making that appointment, or taking that long walk to the clinic, is one of the most nerve-wracking experiences they can imagine. However, in an age where the numbers of people diagnosed with HIV are increasing, has our natural fear of the unknown become a luxury we simply can’t afford?

Many years ago it was a scary disease. We called it AIDS and it became a name associated with sin and death. The massive number of infections, particularly in the gay community, were staggering, and as the death toll slowly crept up, nations across the world panicked. It’s impossible for any society to come through such a dark time and emerge unscathed, and so the fear of a silent killer left a scar on our cultural memory which has never really healed, and the mere mention of HIV and AIDS still has a way of stopping conversations.

Thankfully, things have changed since then and treatment for HIV and AIDS is better now than it has ever been. People who have the condition are now finding that their lives have not changed completely, and they are still able to live as long and do all the same things they could before. It’s true that they now have a few additional concerns to think about but with the help of medication, HIV is now manageable. However, it seems that attitudes have not moved on as much as the treatment, with people still finding themselves afraid, ashamed and worried that their lives will never be the same again.

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To try and get a better understanding of the feelings and attitudes behind the diagnosis, I spoke with Sona Barbossa, a counselling team leader with the GMI Partnership. Over the course of our conversation, Sona revealed that the anxiety surrounding being tested and anxiety about the results is something which does prevent people from being tested regularly. ‘I don’t think it’s so much a fear about the test itself, but more fear of what the results might be and having to deal with that. There is still a stigma around it and I see many guys who have not been tested for years because they’re afraid of finding out the results and having to make decisions upon learning their results. Also, there’s still a lot of thinking around where people believe that it won’t happen to them, so they don’t see the point in being tested.’ When I asked Sona if she thought attitudes have changed much since HIV first came to public attention, she told us she didn’t think so. ‘People still connect HIV with promiscuity, the gay scene and with drugs. There’s also still a lot of shame and guilt that surrounds the condition, which I think plays a large role in whether people want to be tested or not and can prevent people from making those all important first steps to be tested.’

The fear of the condition is more than understandable. Even with new treatments being developed every day, HIV is still a lifelong condition which also has lifelong consequences. There’s also a very real stigma still attached, which has always been associated with homosexuality, promiscuity and intravenous drug use. This forces a lot of people who have HIV into a double life to keep it a secret from their friends and family. Sona herself pointed out during our conversation that a lot of people still feel like they will be shunned by their loved ones. ‘The fear of being judged and being looked at differently does form a large part of why people may keep this condition from their loved ones. They think that people may change towards them, and worry that their friends won’t accept them any more, and obviously the worry that their families won’t accept them any more. With this kind of attitude pervading society, it’s little wonder that people would be put off from learning their status, as it forces people to think about a lot of things before they even go to have the test done.’

According to statistics gathered by the gay men’s health charity GMFA, 59,000 gay men were tested for HIV last year. While this seems like a large figure, I was later informed by Carl Burnell, the CEO of GMFA, that this figure may only make up 15-25% of the estimated gay population. This becomes all the more worrying when GMFA’s recent statistics uncovered that 82% of new HIV infections are actually passed on from people who have not been checked themselves. The organisation has consistently fought to encourage people to learn their status and  to be checked at least once a year, however in the course of their work, they find that anxiety about HIV is having a definitive effect on preventing people from being checked. When they examined the reasons for not going to be tested, they found that 30% of those asked noted that nerves about their results were a factor, with a further 10% going on to say this was the main thing stopping them from taking the test. Burnell also noted that though people are still keen to avoid becoming HIV positive, their awareness that the condition is all around them is decreasing, and this can potentially lead people to take risks with their sexual health. He also commented that there is still a popular misconception among young gay men that HIV is not something they need to worry about, as it’s still considered by some to be a disease that only harms older people.

However, it isn’t just methods of treatment which have moved on, but also methods of detection. Time was, that if you wanted to have an HIV test you would have to go to your GP and ask for the test specifically and then be referred to have your blood taken and examined. The process would take anywhere between 3 days and 2 weeks depending on the area, and the very idea of waiting for the results could be described as hell-on-earth for people who were brave enough to be tested in the first place. Now people are able to walk in and be tested within half an hour and have their results the same day, sometimes within minutes. Similarly, thanks to the work of organisations like the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), people are now able to order and administer the test in the privacy of their own home, send off a small vial of blood and have their results sent to them via email or even text. The sad fact is that even with all these different ways to be diagnosed, not enough people are going out and being regularly checked.

HIV TESTINGHere at So So Gay we like to practice what we preach, so when it came to writing a feature that dealt with being fearless and going to get tested, I decided to go out and take the test myself. Having been in a long-term relationship and suddenly single again, it seemed like the right time to know my status, since I was back on the dating scene. I picked the 56 Dean Street clinic in London for its walk-in service and quick results. The staff were amazing and they made me feel reassured every step of the way. They made me feel like, even though I may have been nervous to be there, I was doing the right thing by being tested. I must admit I was scared – after all the idea of drawing blood at the best of times is scary, especially for a needle-phobe like me –  but I felt that whatever the result, it would all be OK. It’s impossible to be in that situation and not wonder about what happens if you get a bad result and I was no different as I sat in the waiting room. However, I was seen by the nurse extremely quickly and within a few minutes of me sitting down in the private room, we were ready to draw blood. The nurse was a saint and kept me calm, and reminded me that even if I was HIV+, then I would still be the same person I was when I walked in, and that there are services out there to help me every step of the way. When my result came back, I was thankfully HIV-. Although I was relieved, I also knew that being tested was only half the battle, so I went and made an appointment to come back in 6 months to be checked again. I felt like it was a responsible thing to do, not just for my own health, but also for the benefit of anyone I might come to know in the future.

The truth is that it’s very easy to get ‘caught short’ in life and sometimes that leads us to take risks when we know we shouldn’t. The true test is when we make these mistakes, we have to make sure that we take the time to know our own status, since it doesn’t just affect us, but also the people we care about. HIV is no longer the death sentence it used to be and people are able to live normal, healthy and happy lives like they did before. However, this is thanks to the amazing progress we have made in treating the condition and we can only begin to do that when we make the decision to get tested and keep on top of our health. It’s a scary prospect to some and no one takes that for granted, but by taking the chance to be tested, you could be buying yourself years of life. Speaking to Carl at GMFA, he even proclaimed that we could well see the cure to HIV in our lifetimes, so let’s all make sure we are all there to see it.

Some key facts to remember:

  1. HIV is a disease which is transmitted by the sharing of bodily fluids, i.e. blood and semen. It does not discriminate against people who are older, more sexually active or people who use drugs.
  2. There is currently no cure for HIV, so people with the condition have it for the rest of their lives.
  3. With an early diagnosis people are able to live long lives. If it is left untreated, then it becomes harder to fight.
  4. People who have HIV are still the same people they have always been, and it is wrong to judge people or treat them differently because of their status.
  5. Condoms are not 100% effective. There is still a chance you can get HIV if you are safe, so you need to get tested at least once a year to know if you have the condition or not. The only ‘safe’ sex, is no sex.

Above all, remember that we have a responsibility to care for each other as well as for ourselves because, regardless of positive or negative, we are still united as a community. Be brave, go out and get tested so you know your status. There is an old saying which says ‘knowledge is power’, but in this instance it would be more accurate to say ‘knowledge is life’, whatever your status may be.

Via So So gay

HAVE YOU EVER HAD A HIV TEST?

If you’re interested in having a HIV test, we offer a completely free and confidential rapid HIV test and you’ll get the results within 60 seconds from a simple finger prick test. We use the Insti HIV test produced by BioLytical laboratories. The test is 99.96% accurate from 90 days post contact for detecting HIV 1 and 2 antibodies. We also have a mobile testing van which is often out in communities providing mobile rapid HIV tests. Appointments are not always necessary, if you would like a test, please contact us on 0116 2559995

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FREE Training: HIV & Culture

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Delivered in collaboration with people from a wide range of communities and cultures in Leicester, we will explore how culture affects perspectives and experiences of HIV.

  • Date & Time: Thursday, 13th December between 13:00-16:30 hrs.
  • Venue: The Michael Wood Centre, 53 Regent Road, Leicester, LE1 6YF.

The session will also look at ways of providing knowledge and empowerment about HIV to people with different cultural needs.”

Spaces are very limited, (only 10 available).  If you would like to attend, please contact us on 0116 2559995 and speak to our team who are happy to help.

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Gonorrhea Is Now One Antibiotic Away from Being Untreatable

A close-up illustration of the Gonorrhea bacteria on a petri dish

Back in October, we told you that Gonorrhea could possibly become untreatable, well, unfortunately, the disease is closer to untreatable than it has been since doctors devised a way to treat it in the first place.

We’re down to just one antibiotic that can effectively fight the disease!

The cause for alarm comes from the CDC’s cheerily named “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report,” which has reported this month:

Gonorrhea is a major cause of serious reproductive complications in women and can facilitate human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission. Effective treatment is a cornerstone of U.S. gonorrhea control efforts, but treatment of gonorrhea has been complicated by the ability of Neisseria gonorrhoeae to develop antimicrobial resistance.

In everyday terms, gonorrhea has gradually grown resistant to nearly every antibiotic we’ve created over the past several decades to destroy it. Nowadays, our last stand against the disease is injections of the antibiotic ceftriaxone, which then need to be be followed up with oral doses of either zithromycin or doxycycline.  According to a statement from the CDC’s Director of STD Prevention, Dr. Gail Bolan, it is now “only a matter of time” until gonorrhea is resistant to our final, antibiotic regimen. After that, we’ll have nothing to stop it, which is not good news considering that gonorrhoea is a common STI in the UK.

It was diagnosed in over 16,500 people in 2010 and there are likely to be many more people who remain undiagnosed, because up to half of women and one in 10 men have no symptoms of gonorrhoea so don’t seek advice from a doctor.

So, in line with our advice in protecting yourself from contracting HIV, if you’re not using condoms already—(and, really, you should be using condoms if you’re having sex with people) maybe you should start now, there are other dangers out there besides HIV.

More information about gonorrhoea is available from the NHS and Bupa from the following links:

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