After a morning meeting with Florida health officials NBA star and national advocate for HIV/AIDS Earvin “Magic” Johnson took a little time to talk about his past, the need for awareness and to sign a few autographs.
Johnson, a 12-time NBA All-Star, touched on the faults in the way minorities seek medical care, even when sickness is apparent.
“All the minorities that are sitting here listening to me,” the 53-year-old said. “Make sure you go get your physicals. Why do we pass away earlier than everybody else? Because a sign of we’re not feeling good, we don’t go to the doctor ourselves.”
Johnson said although the numbers of people getting tested for HIV and AIDS has risen among urban communities, “You’d be surprised, a lot of minorities will go get tested, they just won’t go back for the results; we got to change that. So those are the kinds of things that I’m here to do.”
Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Elizabeth Dudek said the focus of the meeting was to “talk about his efforts to serving the HIV and AIDS population and what he believes the endeavor that he’s in with in Florida will be a leader to other states and nations.”
She said he also touched on issues surrounding specialty care, the needs of afflicted individuals, past problems within the medical field and the pros and cons of current treatments.
AHCA Medical Health Program Analyst Cheryl Meeks said the advantage of having a national celebrity face to the HIV awareness movement had more of an effect on driving home the message.
Johnson’s accomplishment as an advocate has been “to be a living example of what you can do to, I don’t know if you ever overcome the disease, but if you will deal with the disease,” Dudek said.
Johnson has lived with HIV for over two-decades after he was diagnosed in the early 90s. Since, he has become an advocate for HIV/AIDS with a main focus on minority populations. He has tried to involve clergy, mainly in the south, as a way to have people “understand and appreciate the disease and what needs to happen to treat it,” Dudek added.
Throngs of AHCA employees and others sporting basketballs, photos and shirts waiting for his autograph greeted Johnson. Arthur Jackson, a Human Resources employee at AHCA wore a 1992 Olympics Johnson “Dream Team” jersey to the event. He left with a signature and a smile.
Jackson said he planned to have the signature threaded over and this was a significant event for him. “I saw him play in high school,” the Indianapolis native said. “Actually, I have the program and the tickets from the NCAA Finals when he played. This is fantastic.” Jackson said in addition to meeting what he considers to be a hero, he is supportive of Johnson’s efforts in the medical field.