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Magic Johnson pushes HIV awareness


Magic Johnson
Johnson: "The only time I think about HIV is when I have to take my medicine twice a day."
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Editor's Note: CNN Access is a regular feature on CNN.com providing interviews with newsmakers from around the world.

(CNN) -- Just as he took the NBA to a higher level with his on-court efforts and off-court charisma, Earvin "Magic" Johnson works to do the same with HIV awareness.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta talked with the former basketball standout, who retired from the NBA in 1991 after announcing he was HIV positive and is now a prominent businessman and activist. Johnson offered insights into his healthy, active life, while warning that not every HIV-positive person is as fortunate as him.

JOHNSON: I was sitting there with the [NBA's Los Angeles] Lakers saying it can't happen to me. I thought I was invincible.

DR. GUPTA: What is the story that you tell [people]?

JOHNSON: The real story is that I had unprotected sex. That's that. That's easy.

The worst moment from all of this was driving from that doctor's office, to tell my wife that I was HIV positive.

GUPTA: What scared you so much or frustrated you so much about having to tell her?

JOHNSON: Not knowing what she was going to do. Not knowing whether she was going to stay [with me] or not, because I told her I would understand if she wanted to leave. So I think that was the toughest moment. So when she told me that we were going to beat this together, I just [felt relieved].

The first year was hard for me to deal with. The second year was a little bit easier, but still difficult. It took me five years to get it out of me. It was a difficult moment, a difficult time.

Then I came back [to basketball] one other time because I wanted to go out my way. So I finished it. [Fellow basketball players] were very receptive. I played in the All-Star game -- had a wonderful game and got the MVP. So I think guys said, "OK, he's OK." Because everyone thought I was going to die, like a year later. And so they didn't know.

Most people who are healthy, and I'm healthy, can't even live my life. Trust me. I get up 5:30-6 every morning. I'm in the gym. I run a couple miles. I lift weights, and then I'm at work until 8-9 o'clock at night.

GUPTA: How many pills?

JOHNSON: Four.

I tell you, it's funny because the only time I think about HIV is when I have to take my medicine twice a day.

GUPTA: Because you look so good. What is your diet like?

JOHNSON: My diet is [mostly] chicken and fish. I make sure I get a lot of vegetables, a lot of fruit. I am a big fruit man, I am a vegetable man anyway. And I also [get] a lot of rest. That's the key: I may be up early, but I'm in bed early too.

I want to be here for a long time, so I am going to do everything I have to do to be here. And I want to walk my daughter down the aisle and give her away to somebody some day. I want to make sure I am still here to make sure my two young [sons] become men.

Young people want you to be real with them.

The important thing is this: Just because I'm doing well doesn't mean that they're going to do well if they get HIV. A lot of people have died since I have announced ... This disease is not going anywhere.


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