Cookie Johnson talks about AIDS, marriage

June 10, 2008 7:05:13 PM PDT
The wife of basketball legend Magic Johnson says women must empower themselves when it comes to fighting HIV and AIDS by getting tested.

Cookie Johnson was in Oakland today where the disease continues to cripple the black community.

Cookie Johnson reached out to black religious leaders in Oakland asking them to support those living with HIV and AIDS.

"By providing support groups for people who are infected, providing educational material and just talking to the congregation to educate," said Johnson.

In 1991 her husband, basketball great, Magic Johnson surprised the world after announcing he was HIV positive.

Cookie Johnson now gets screened every year, and she says women should too.

"You get tested for diabetes, you get tested for high cholesterol, you just throw that in there and make it a part of your normal life," said Johnson.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of HIV among African American women is 20 times higher than that of white women.

"In Oakland it's a very serious issue and that is because people do believe that the epidemic is over and they do believe that the epidemic was somebody else's problem," said Marsha Martin from "Get Screened Oakland."

The problem is compounded by the hundreds of men of color who get HIV while in prison.

"With the disproportionate number of young men of color behind prison walls when they do return to community, they return to communities of color and that has created this spike," said Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums.

A year ago, Mayor Ron Dellums launched the "Get Screened Oakland" campaign. Since then, about 800 people have been tested, and one percent of them tested positive.

The number of people in Oakland getting screened will, no doubt go up on June 27. That's when hospitals will offer free rapid HIV testing to anyone willing to know their status.

"I'm trying to encourage women to feel good enough and stand up in the relationship and say "no" if protection is not used and feel comfortable enough to do that," said Johnson.


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