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Mark Medina of USA TODAY Sports explains how LeBron James is dealing with the COVID-1

9 pandemic from home.

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When he shocked the world and announced that he was diagnosed with HIV, perhaps only Magic Johnson really believed that he would still be alive. Johnson has proven right for a little over 29 years and counts.

“The reason I’m still alive is early detection,” Johnson said on CNN Thursday. “I had a test and a physical. It turned out that I had HIV and it saved my life.”

Johnson did not appear on CNN just to think about the moment when he announced on November 7, 1991 that he would be retiring from the Los Angeles Lakers after learning that he had contracted the HIV virus, that causes AIDS. He also seemed to be discussing the novel coronavirus pandemic.

First, Johnson offered a context: “When I think of this virus, it’s completely different.”

Nevertheless, Johnson still drew parallels between HIV and COVID-19 because of similarities in misconceptions about the virus, insufficient testing, lack of medication available, and how the pandemic hurt the black community.

“African Americans are leaders in coronavirus deaths and most of them in hospital are African Americans,” said Johnson. “We, as African Americans, have to do a better job of following social distance, staying at home and making sure that we educate our loved ones and family members and do what we should to stay safe and healthy. If you do add that up, we don’t have access to high quality medical and health care. So many of us are not insured. That creates a problem, just like with HIV and AIDS. “

Consider the general perception of HIV when Johnson found out he had it for the first time.

“When I announced it was considered a white gay man’s illness,” Johnson said. “People were wrong. The black people didn’t think they could get HIV and AIDS.”

This partially explains why Johnson made his diagnosis public. This also partially explains why Johnson’s foundation ultimately raised more than $ 10 million for HIV / AIDS research and charities.

Nevertheless, the Center for Disease Control estimated that 42% of new HIV diagnoses were black in 2018. USA TODAY recently reported that black people die much more often from coronavirus than other Americans in major cities. Johnson gave several reasons that explain such a worrying trend.

Johnson complained about the lack of testing in the country and the different logistical and financial hurdles that are required to get one.

“We need to make sure that every American can be tested first. There is a lack of tests right now. People want to be tested, but they can’t find a test kit,” said Johnson. “The problem is that people want us to go to the suburbs of America to get this test. Why can’t you have these tests done directly in urban America and downtown areas?”

Johnson complained about the country’s current health care system. He observed that black people are more susceptible to underlying health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. These conditions can make people more susceptible to COVID-19.

“The lack of access to health care is an unbeatable combination,” said Johnson. “We have to do better. Hopefully there is affordable healthcare for everyone, not just minorities, but everyone. If prices go down, I think African Americans will be much healthier.”

Finally, Johnson pointed out that black people are more likely to work in jobs that are considered “essential services” than jobs that allow them to work from home. This explains in part why Johnson has invested in downtown reconstruction projects and raised funds for university scholarships.

“We are hardworking people,” said Johnson. “We want to take care of our family. At the same time, we have to understand that the hospitality and restaurant sectors are strongly driven by minorities, especially African Americans. We cannot simply say that they are in the family. As African Americans, we have to do a better job We have to make sure that our children can continue to educate themselves so that they can have jobs in other sectors, so hopefully we won’t talk about it in the next five years. “”

It largely depends on whether doctors can find a vaccine against COVID-19.

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“Until we develop some drugs that can extend life and help people fight the virus, we will continue to let people die,” Johnson said. “This is unfortunate. Here we are, the largest and strongest country in the world, and we should have medicines that can help people with this virus.”

There is no cure for HIV or AIDS. Nevertheless, Johnson has lived with the HIV virus by adhering to a strict daily routine. He prays and has a positive attitude. He trains. And he takes his medicine (he told that Los Angeles times In 2011 he takes three unknown pills twice a day). On CNN, Johnson added that he had taken the so-called HIV cocktail. Dr. David Ho, Johnson’s doctor and one of the preeminent doctors in the AIDS research community, is credited with developing the “cocktail” blends of protease inhibitors.

“That made me live for almost 30 years now,” said Johnson. “When I first announced HIV almost 30 years ago, there was only one drug in AZT. Now there are 30 drugs. Now people can live a healthy life because of these drugs.”

It remains to be seen how long it will take to find the right medication to treat COVID-19. Until then, professional sports leagues may not be equipped to return to the game.

Major League Baseball has proposed a proposal to hold games behind closed doors in Arizona. The NBA has considered a similar facility in Las Vegas. Lakers star LeBron James initially expressed his displeasure at playing without fans, but has since softened his stance.

“LeBron is right. It’s hard to play without fans,” said Johnson, who stepped down as president of the Lakers for basketball operations in 2019. “You’re playing a game, you’ll be prepared to have no fans there. We all played our game.” all life in the playgrounds and in pick-up games without fans. Basketball players will know how to adapt. “

Even if Johnson admitted that he was “looking forward to seeing the Lakers win the championship,” he seemed more concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic than worrying about resuming the sport.

“I hope that happens, but the players have to be safe first,” said Johnson. “The numbers need to be stabilized. America and all of us who live in this great country need sport, especially at a time like this. But only if everyone is safe.”

Follow the USA TODAY NBA author Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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