I hope millions of Americans watch this. It cuts to the heart of the matter regarding health care in America. “No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life.”

I remember when Magic Johnson had that press conference in 1991, abruptly announcing his retirement from basketball because he was found to be HIV positive. At that time, being HIV positive was a death sentence because it would lead to AIDS. At that time, the majority of Americans were not interested in finding a cure for HIV/AIDS because it was assumed to be a disease that only gay men and IV drug users contracted, so most people didn’t care or thought that God was rightfully punishing the heathens.

But when Magic Johnson, a charismatic, wildly popular public figure made that annoucement, and said that he got it not by being gay or using IV drugs, but by having unprotected heterosexual sex, then people paid attention. Because now people could see themselves getting AIDS, because people could personally relate to having unprotected, heterosexual sex. Equal parts empathy and self-serving motivation leading to a collective “WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS.” Very shortly after, Magic went from press conference to Congress, and then the influx of NIH dollars eventually led to the research that understood how the virus works and the multiple classes of drugs that now allow us to keep the HIV virus suppressed. Today, HIV is not a death sentence, but a chronic infection that can be managed over a lifetime with minimal consequence. This is the true story about how we found a cure for HIV. It is because a celebrity got sick, made us realize that we could get sick too, and then, and only then did we care. There’s sadness to the reality of how this works, but I accept that this is how this works. So I’m hoping that because another charismatic, articulate, and passionate celebrity’s son got sick and could have died (but thankfully didn’t) that we can all care about universal access to health care. WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS.

Written by Joseph Lee, M.D.

I'm a Psychiatrist in private practice in Redondo Beach, CA. I completed both medical school and residency training at UCLA. My practice is psychotherapy based with a health-oriented focus on personal growth and wellbeing. I also teach about mental healthiness and advocate for social emotional learning (SEL) in all contexts.

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