December 1st marks World AIDS Day. Dedicated to raising awareness of AIDS or Acute Immuno Deficiency Syndrome, caused by HIV, it was instituted by the World Health Organisation nearly 30 years ago to educate the public on the infection and spread of the disease, testing, avoidance and living with HIV.
A lack of awareness around HIV/AIDS has led to a significant number of deaths worldwide – AIDS claims 2 million victims each year, with nearly 14% of those young children.
Although being HIV positive is no longer a death sentence with stronger, more improved access to antiretroviral medication in the past few years, a lack of awareness and education around the disease has led to significant stigma for victims and sufferers.
Several sportspersons, however, are global ambassadors for awareness; some of whom have battled HIV themselves.
Here are 10 of the most famous sportspersons to have come out in support of HIV/AIDS awareness.
Johnson’s is the first name that comes to mind when discussing HIV in the world of sport. An NBA and Lakers icon, Johnson is on several lists as the “Greatest of All Time.”
The Michigan native, born Earvin Johnson, who first took to the sport as a young child, first played ‘professionally’ as a high schooler, which is when he earned the name ‘Magic.’
Recruited by several US colleges to play varsity, Johnson made his NBA debut in 1979 as a rookie, and had one of the most successful careers in basketball before abruptly announcing his retirement in 1991 after revealing he had contracted HIV.
He immediately announced that he would leave his basketball career, and became an activist for HIV awareness. His announcement and work were praised by many, including then-US President George W Bush.
He returned to play for the US Olympic team, dubbed the ‘dream team’ in 2002, and used it as a stage to, as he put it, “inspire HIV-positive people.”
Johnson wrote a book on safe sex and its importance in addition to being one of the HIV awareness movement's most well-known faces, and founded the Magic Johnson Foundation in 1991, the same year he was diagnosed, with one of the foundation’s main focuses on HIV/AIDS.
The foundation provided free HIV/AIDS testing to more than 38,000 Americans across the country. Additionally, the program has educated nearly 280,000 people about HIV, risk factors associated with the disease and the importance of HIV testing, and Johnson is a principal part of the day-to-day workings of the foundation.