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by Abigail Van Buren

Magic Johnson Sets Standard for National Response to Aids

DEAR READERS: Since the day Magic Johnson stepped to the microphone and calmly announced that he tested positive for the AIDS virus, we have been hearing a great deal about AIDS.

It is no longer "a gay disease," and as Johnson said, "If it could happen to me -- it can happen to anybody."

Please read what Anna Quindlen, the brilliant New York Times columnist, had to say about the subject:

"In the 10 years since five gay men with pneumonia became a million people who are HIV-positive, this illness has brought out the worst in America.

"Last year we witnessed the canonization of one AIDS patient, a 23-year-old woman named Kimberly Bergalis, who says she 'didn't do anything wrong.' She is a lovely white woman with no sexual history who contracted AIDS from her dentist. She is what some people like to call 'an innocent victim.'

"With that single adjective we condemn those who get AIDS from sex and those who get it from dirty needles as guilty, and ultimately unworthy of our help and sympathy. We imply that gay men get what they deserve, and people who shoot up may as well be dead. It's a little like being sympathetic to the health-conscious jogger who dies of a heart attack during a stint on the Stairmaster, but telling the widow of the couch potato, 'Well, if he hadn't eaten all those hot dogs, this wouldn't have happened.'

"How are all those parents who denigrate 'queers' and 'junkies' going to explain what happened to Magic Johnson? How are all those pious people who like to talk about 'innocent victims' going to deal with the lovable basketball star, the all-time sports hero, who stressed safe sex when he told the world he was HIV-positive? Will this finally make them say to their kids, 'It could happen to you,' and make them stop relying solely on chastity and start dealing with reality?

"Magic Johnson, with that engaging personality, that athletic legerdemain, that grin -- this is what AIDS looks like. Why can't we learn to deal with our national tragedy with as much dignity and determination as this good man brings to his personal one?"