Magic Johnson

I was watching a sports bio of Magic today and got to wondering: What is his health status these days? Is he still considered HIV positive? I recall reading somewhere that his virus level was now basically “undetectable”.

Does this mean HIV can be cured? If so, then why isn’t he the subject of medical testing to find a cure for others, etc? Was his HIV status some sort of elaborate hoax in the first place, then? I have just never heard of HIV being cured in anyone, you would think if Magic Johnson was cured it would be big news…!

Magic Johnson is one of the fittest athletes of our time. His extraordinary maintenance of his body combined with the advice from the best doctors in the world contributed to his fighting back HIV into virtual remission.

All kinds of people who are HIV positive can get to the point where the virus is undetectable in their blood. The medications to do it have been around for a few years. As long as the medications keep working, the virus is undetectable and they stay healthy, but the virus is still hiding in their cells and has the potential to kill them if it starts reproducing again.

Magic has always maintained that he got HIV from a woman. Can anyone name another man besides Magic who got HIV through heterosexual contact?

I can’t name one but…

Is the issue that you doubt HIV can be contracted by men through heterosexual sex? Or are you looking for another hetero male celebrity with HIV?

I find it strange that there are no other male celebrities in this category. Nor have I known any men in my personal experience in this circumstance. If anyone reading this personally knows any men who have contracted HIV heterosexually, please contribute to this discussion.

I don’t know any men personally to have contracted HIV, but the stock car racer Tim Richmond died from AIDS after apparently contracting it from a hooker.

A huge percentage of the people in some parts of Africa have HIV and I assume a lot of them must be men who got it through heterosexual contact because it seems hard to believe that there are that many bisexual men and junkies there. I’ve heard a theory that the reason that doesn’t happen very often here is that there are some sexually transmitted diseases that are much more common in Africa (and supposedly in circumsized men) that create raw spots on the penis that give the virus an opening to get in through. For healthy men it’s apparently pretty hard to get HIV from an infected woman. I have no idea how Magic Johnson got it, but if he had sex with thousands of groupies like Wilt Chamberlain claimed to, maybe the odds weren’t so small.

As an HIV/AIDS epidemiologist, I know of a small number of men who apparently acquired the virus heterosexually (because other likely causes were pretty much ruled out). Male heterosexual (non-injecting) cases still aren’t common in my part of the country, but - as someone mentioned - HIV is commonly spread heterosexually in Africa and some other parts of the world. In fact I believe heterosexual sex might be the leading HIV transmission route in the world.

When an HIV/AIDS case is reported to the state Health Department, information on mode of transmission is collected. If a man reports ever having had sex with a man or having injected drugs, that/those are assumed to be the mode(s) of transmission for his infection. Those are the majority of cases we see. If he claims to have acquired the virus from a woman, the case is investigated further to be sure, and further investigation in the majority of cases uncovers those other(often lied about) behaviors. To confirm that it is probably a heterosexually acquired case (and this is true of female cases, too), the patient must be linked (generally by their own report) to a heterosexual sex partner who is infected with HIV or who belongs to one of the most common risk groups: if the case is a male, he must have a female sex partner who has HIV or is an injection drug user.

If it is a female who is claiming sexual transmission of HIV, she must report having a partner who is an injection drug user, a man who has sex with men, or someone who is also infected. Otherwise she is considered a “no identified risk” case under continued investigation. In this way, if new unusual routes of transmission were to emerge, we’d find out about em.

This is a simplistic description of how cases (and transmission categories) are reported and investigated and I know from experience that this topic can bring up a whole bunch of new questions and concerns. I will be happy to answer them if I can. You can also find more information about HIV/AIDS surveillance at

And no, I don’t have specific info. about Magic Johnson.

  • Jill

What about his wife, Mrs. Johnson? Did she find she was HIV positive? Last I read was she was not but had to be tested for the rest of her natural life.

One has to wonder how many women Mr. Johnson may have spread this HIV to, since he claims, what? 20,000 women? Then they must have had sex with men, so it wouldn’t surprise me if thousands of straight men got it from them.

Publically his wife is saying that she is negative and we can assume that is so. She probably should be tested until about six months after the last time she has (unprotected) sex with him. HIV isn’t as communicable as, say, gonorrhea, so Magic didn’t necessarily transmit it to many - if any - women he had sex with. You would think though that if any ex-partners of his tested positive, they would come forward and we’d hear about it. Right?

You’re thinking of Wilt Chamberlin. Magic Johnson admitted that wasn’t faithful to his wife but never gave a number.

He didn’t keep count, but admitted in some interviews to a number in the hundreds. Being male, that gets him some admiration for being a stud who got unlucky. It didn’t get in the way of his continuing to be a celebrity, and even getting his own talk show. But if a woman had done the same thing, I think the main public reaction would have been more like “The slut was asking for it. Too bad.”

I do feel sorry for his wife and children, though.

… if you can call it a talk show.

“You would think though that if any ex-partners of his tested
positive, they would come forward and we’d hear about it. Right?”

Yes & no, of course, it would be very tricky to prove that it came from him.

Yes, I must have got him confused with Chamberlain. Ooops!..