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Anonymous on November 22, 2011

How did Magic Johnson get HIV?

I’ve been reading about Magic Johnson lately and I was wondering if you know how he got HIV?

answered by Lisa Oldson, MD on November 22, 2011

You’ve asked an interesting question. I can understand why you would be curious about Magic Johnson, especially because he’s been in the headlines lately.

A little background about Magic Johnson and HIV: Twenty years ago, Johnson found out he was HIV-positive after an HIV-screening he had as part of his pre-season physical. At the time, he was playing basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers. After finding out his diagnosis, he quickly announced that he would retire. He also mentioned that he didn’t know how he got HIV at that point. Later reports indicated he got HIV from having multiple sexual partners, one of whom had HIV.

Now 20 years later, Magic Johnson and his doctors control his HIV infection with medications, exercise and regular check-ups. The good news is, even with HIV, he’s doing relatively well because of his medical treatments.

What can we learn about HIV from Magic Johnson? First, having multiple sex partners and having unprotected sex with people whose HIV status you don’t know is a risk factor for getting HIV. Using protection ⎼ like condoms ⎼ during all sexual activity including oral sex, vaginal sex or anal sex can help reduce the risk for HIV.

Johnson’s story also points to the benefits of routine HIV screening. Because of his yearly HIV screening, his doctors were able to find that he had HIV relatively soon after he became infected. After he was diagnosed, his doctors were able to monitor his health and help him start HIV treatment at the best time for his continued health.

Getting screened for HIV regularly could be a good choice for your own health, too. And keep in mind that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommend HIV screening for people ages 13 to 64, as this can help identify previously unknown HIV infections and help people with HIV begin treatment at the right time.

Bottom line? Take a cue from Magic Johnson. If you’ve never been screened for HIV, we offer two HIV tests which can detect an HIV infection. To learn more, you may find our Expert Guide to HIV helpful.

Related info:

Lisa Oldson, MD

Dr. Oldson is Medical Director of the Analyte Physicians Group. She is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Clinical Instructor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Her areas of expertise include STDs (with a particular clinical emphasis on herpes), women's health, preventive medicine, diabetes, obesity and weight management, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Oldson was educated at Rush Medical College and completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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