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Good News Regarding HIV and Life Insurance


Celebrities often receive criticism for their fantastic lifestyles and enormous egos. However, one plus side of celebrity status is that they can draw attention to issues and problems facing the rest of society. Here is an example:

In 1991, basketball superstar Earvin “Magic” Johnson announced that he had contracted the HIV virus. This public disclosure precipitated his retirement from the NBA. Magic joined movie great Rock Hudson as a prominent figure with this disease. These men were later joined by tennis legend Arthur Ashe. Certainly, many people of lesser stature were afflicted, such as Indiana teenager Ryan White. The plight of these people received widespread publicity, which fueled the drive to gain control over what appeared to be an epidemic.(1) Since it was a relatively new phenomenon, one big question was the effect this disease would have on mortality over the long-term.

The fact that Magic’s virus was detected though a life insurance exam drew stark attention to the mortality question. His sophisticated compensation contract with the Lakers had included a low-interest loan. Life insurance was needed to indemnify that loan. The results of the insurance exam revealed his positive HIV status. Given the underwriting standards at that time, a life insurance policy was out of the question. The quality of life Magic would lead – and the length of time he would lead it – became matters of public concern.

What did Magic do?

With his sports future in doubt, Magic left the Lakers and launched a new career in business. He became an advocate for the cause and began to speak out on the need for living responsibly, and on other issues related to the spread of this disease. Most importantly, he dedicated himself to getting better. He availed himself of the medications of the time and stayed the course with his treatment.(2)

Now, over 20 years later, we find Magic to be thriving.  He is busy with his family. He is active as a sports analyst, businessman, and AIDS activist. He has started a foundation to promote HIV education and prevention.(3) His success has made him a symbol of hope for the many people with this virus. His longevity, along with the longevity of many other AIDS survivors (some of whom have lived with the disease longer than Magic!), has proven something about mortality and this condition.

Consequently, the life insurance marketplace is now much more accommodating of people who are HIV-positive. When this disease first rose to public recognition, people were lucky if they could purchase a policy for burial and final expenses. Now, policies are available that will provide sufficient benefit to help replace income, indemnify a mortgage or business loan, or cover a key employee. As always, eligibility requirements apply; nonetheless the fact remains that now it is more possible than ever for people with this virus to buy the life insurance they need to secure their affairs. (1) “My Life.” American Decades Primary Sources. Ed. Cynthia Rose. Vol. 10: 1990-1999. Detroit: Gale, 2004. 343-347. U.S. History in Context. Web. 26 Nov. 2013. (2)”How Has Magic Johnson Survived 20 Years with HIV?” LiveScience.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Nov. 2013. (3) Moisse, Katie. “Magic Johnson’s HIV Announcement Resonates 21 Years Later.” ABC News. ABC News Network, n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.