Don’t Take It Lightly: Cookie Johnson Discusses The Importance Of Knowing Your Status

March 10, 2013  |  

Carrie Devorah/

From Essence

Today as we observe National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, let us consider the statistics surrounding women and the disease.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, women make up 24 percent of HIV diagnoses among adults in America. The risks are even greater for African-American women—with one in every 32 women being diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. Statistics further state that 85 percent of African-American women with HIV received it through high-risk sex. caught up with NWGHAAD ambassador Cookie Johnson, wife of famed basketball player Magic Johnson, to find out how she is helping spread the message of awareness through social media and how women can keep themselves safe.

On how she’s working to get word out that women should be tested:

We’re trying to reach them where they live, which is basically through Twitter and Facebook. Everyone needs to talk about this. Part of the problem is, when my husband made his announcement back in 1991, people were dying. It was a new disease. People weren’t familiar with it. People were dying at alarming rates. Now, with the medications they have, people are still getting the disease at high rates, but they’re not dying like they used to. I wonder if that’s why people aren’t afraid of it anymore. I think we really need to bring attention to the fact that there are still huge numbers—especially women and girls—who are getting this disease.

How her marriage changed since Magic made his HIV announcement in 1991:

It actually got stronger. When you’re faced with a tragedy like that, you either do one of two things. You either band together and become a close-knit unit or you completely fall apart and go your separate ways. It’s a lot to handle. We were married a month when it happened. It was very difficult. Everything was new. I found out I was pregnant that month. I wanted to do everything possible to keep it together and fight for it. My first instinct was to go to God and get everything from Him and number two, I was going to fight for my family.

Be sure to read what other advice Cookie has for women and also when she started talking to her children about sex over on Essence.

Do you get tested on a regular basis?

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