LOS ANGELES — Fifteen years after disclosing he was HIV-positive, wide-smiling former basketball star Earvin "Magic" Johnson marked World AIDS day Friday by unveiling a campaign to end the disease within the Black community.
"I Stand with Magic: Campaign to End Black AIDS" is a joint effort between the Magic Johnson Foundation and Illinois-based HIV research leader Abbott Laboratories, Inc. that aims to help reduce new HIV infections in the Black community by 50 percent over five years.
"I have seen the numbers of HIV infections continue to rise in the minority community and the time is now to take action in helping to lower those numbers," Johnson, 47, said in a news release.
The program "encourages African Americans of all ages to stand with me and fight HIV/AIDS by getting tested, getting test results and encouraging at least four friends or family members to do the same," Johnson said.
Abbott developed the first licensed test to detect HIV antibodies in the blood and is investing $100 million in developing countries to advance HIV testing, treatment and support services, according to the press release.
"HIV is now having a disproportionate effect on the African American community, which accounts for more than half of all new HIV infections," said Abbott CEO Miles D. White. "Getting people tested is the first line of defense.
Johnson, who led the Los Angeles Lakers to five National Basketball Association championships in the 1980s, sent ripples through the sports world when he announced his retirement in 1991 at age 32 because he was HIV-positive.
He has made two unsuccessful basketball comebacks — one in 1992 and one during the 1995-96 season. Johnson then turned to raising HIV awareness and building a business empire that includes movie theaters, shopping centers, restaurants and a bank.
"He's doing wonderful. He's been blessed. The key is that he takes his meds and exercises regularly," Towalame Austin, president of the Magic Johnson Foundation, told The Associated Press.
He played a basketball game at a high school on Thursday and was still sore, she said.
"The virus is undetectable in his system, meaning that it's just asleep. He takes three medications, including Kaletra. He has been on Kaletra since 1991," she said.
Fortune magazine named Johnson one of its 50 "Most Powerful Black Executives" in 2002.
Johnson established his foundation in 1991 to raise money for community-based organizations dealing with HIV/AIDS education and prevention programs.
—The Associated Press