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Magic Johnson’s HIV bombshell, 25 years later

November 30, 2016

When NBA superstar Magic Johnson announced his HIV diagnosis to the world 25 years ago, the virus was considered an imminent death sentence. But progress in the treatment of HIV/AIDS has been remarkable by any measure. Johnson is not only alive today, but at 57, leading a full life that includes work as an activist for HIV research, prevention, and treatment.

According to LaRon Nelson, an assistant professor at the School of Nursing, Johnson helped “increase people’s awareness that there was treatment available, and that people that we look up to were people who were also diagnosed with HIV.”

Nelson, who earned both is undergraduate and doctoral degrees from the School of Nursing, is currently the Dean’s Endowed Fellow in Health Disparities and a noted expert on HIV/AIDS disparities in both treatment and prevention. In 2011, when he was an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, the Canadian government named him one of 19 Rising Stars in Global Health. Earlier this year, the Ontario HIV Treatment Network chose him as its inaugural research chair in HIV program science for African, Caribbean, and black communities.

Nelson says that in spite of Johnson’s highly publicized work, HIV still carries a stigma in many communities and cultures. That stigma is among the most stubborn barriers to accessing HIV treatment. “Because of stigma, many times people won’t walk through the [health clinic] door,” Nelson says.

In an effort to reduce the fears of stigmatization and offer more access to information and care, Nelson is studying the use of mobile apps that offer resources outside traditional clinical systems.

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Category: Voices & Opinion