HIV Is Not the End—Lessons from Two Pro Athletes

Receiving an HIV+ diagnosis is not good news, but it’s not the death sentence it’s often made out to be. People with HIV are living full, active lives and reaching normal life expectancies. Take Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Greg Louganis, for example. Not only did an HIV+ diagnosis not stop them from being world-class competitive athletes, it also didn’t stop them from pursuing other interests and talents. And for both of them, their HIV status spurred them on to become renowned activists for HIV awareness, prevention and care.

Magic Johnson, Post-HIV Diagnosis

You don’t have to be a basketball fan to know who Magic Johnson is. He amassed a number of awards for an impressive basketball career spanning 1979 to 1996—five years after his HIV diagnosis.

Magic Johnson was first diagnosed in 1991 and immediately retired…and then came out of retirement, twice. In his post-diagnosis career, Johnson:

  • Was named NBA All-Star MVP
  • Was part of the 1992 US Olympic “Dream Team”
  • Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
  • Toured Europe, Asia and Australia with the Magic Johnson All-Stars
  • Joined (and co-owned) a Swedish basketball franchise

Today, he is president of the Los Angeles Lakers.

But those are only his basketball-related feats. Since his diagnosis, Johnson has also:

  • Hosted a late-night talk show
  • Commentated for NBC Sports
  • Wrote a book about safe sex
  • Founded the Magic Johnson Foundation (originally dedicated to HIV advocacy)
  • Started Magic Johnson Enterprises

In 1999, he was the speaker for the United Nation’s World Aids Day Conference.

Johnson is an activist for HIV-related issues, including assistance for low-income individuals.

Greg Louganis, Post-HIV Diagnosis

Greg Louganis has been dubbed “the greatest diver in history,” competing in both platform and springboard diving in three separate Olympic Games and winning two of his four gold medals in 1988—after his diagnosis.

Although Louganis is known primarily for his diving career, his interests and pursuits are very broad. Since his diagnosis in 1988, he:

  • Wrote a best-selling autobiography (Breaking the Surface)
  • Acted in movies and live theater productions
  • Appeared on a number of celebrity shows, including Hollywood Squares
  • Entered a number of dog agility competitions
  • Co-wrote a dog owner’s guide (For the Life of Your Dog: A Complete Guide to Having a Dog From Adoption and Birth Through Sickness and Health)
  • Carried the torch for the 2015 Special Olympics World Games

Since 2010, he has been coaching competitive diving for SoCal Divers Club. In 2013 he was inducted into the California Sports Hall of Fame.

What Greatness Will You Pursue?

An HIV+ diagnosis does not have to change the course of your life. New treatments and promises for complete cures mean that you no matter your HIV status, you can keep working toward your goals.

UNM Truman Health Services can help you keep you on your path to greatness. We provide rapid HIV testing, treatment and support services. Contact us to learn more.