SPORTS ILLUSTRATED for kids is a monthly magazine for boys and girls ages 8 to 12. At SI's request, the editors of SI For Kids prepared this article to help explain the events of last week to kids 12 and under.
Los Angeles Lakers Star Magic Johnson retired from basketball last week after doctors found HIV in his blood. The letters HIV stand for human immunodeficiency virus. A virus is a tiny germ, and HIV is what causes the deadly disease AIDS.
People all over the world were shocked by the news about Magic. They fear that he will develop AIDS before a cure can be found.
Magic showed courage and optimism. He smiled and told people not to be scared. He vowed to do all he can to stay healthy for many more years.
"Life is going to go on for me," Magic said. "I'm going to be a happy man." Magic doesn't have AIDS yet, and he will begin taking medication soon to try to hold off the disease. Other people with HIV have gone as long as 10 years before developing AIDS.
Since 1981, more than 125,000 people in the U.S. have died as a result of getting AIDS. The disease saps a person's ability to fight off sickness. AIDS itself doesn't kill anyone; it just weakens a patient's body so that he or she can't fight off even a simple illness.
Many people think that only certain types of individuals get AIDS, but that is not true. People of all colors and backgrounds can get the disease.
Some people also believe that you can catch AIDS from someone as easily as you catch a cold. That's totally wrong. Here are some facts:
•You can't get AIDS from sitting next to someone in class who has the disease.
•You can't get AIDS from playing with someone who has AIDS.
•You can't get AIDS from using a bathroom an AIDS patient has used.
•You can't get AIDS by drinking from a glass that someone with AIDS has used.
•You can't get AIDS from a mosquito or any other insect.
•You can't get AIDS from playing sports.
•You can't get AIDS from living in the same house with someone who has AIDS.
•You can't get AIDS from touching or hugging someone who has AIDS.
The truth is, AIDS is a disease that's hard for young kids to get. It is almost impossible for any kid to get AIDS from doing everyday things such as going to school.
Teenagers and adults do have to be careful about some of the things they do. Magic hopes to teach them some simple ways to protect themselves from AIDS.
If you are confused or worried about AIDS, you might want to talk about it with your parents or teacher. The key thing to remember is not to be scared of people who have AIDS. The best thing you can do for someone with AIDS is to give him or her lots of love and support.
ANDREW BERNSTEIN/NBA PHOTOS
It's safe to share a hug with Magic even though he has the AIDS virus.