Actor Charlie Sheen's announcement letting the world know that he is HIV positive probably didn't come as a huge shock to many, considering his lifestyle. His announcement didn't necessarily rock our world like it did when another actor, the legendary Rock Hudson, announced he was gay (and also suffering from AIDS) or the late, great Queen frontman Freddie Mercury succumbing to the complications of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

Probably because they were, in a sense, trailblazers who put a face on a disease that many of us knew little about and yet were scared as hell of getting infected with. It wasn't until basketball legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson held a nationally televised press conference on Nov. 7, 1991, to tell the world that he was leaving his hall-of-fame career because he had diagnosed with the virus that we had to come to uncomfortable grips with the mysterious and frightening disease. Johnson has lived fully in the days since, far surpassing what many had considered to be a death sentence for him 24 years ago. He also was the first to teach us the distinction between contracting the HIV virus and suffering from full-blown AIDS.

The day of the announcement, my buddy Tony -- who was a huge basketball fan -- was so shaken by the news that he got tongue-tangled when he asked me if I had "heard the news about Magic JANSEN."  I immediately burst into laughter and said, "Oh, you mean the legendary Scandanavian basketballer Magic Johansen?"  He didn't think it was funny and when he told me the news, I, too, was shocked. That said, to this very day, within a tight circle of my friends, the Laker standout is STILL referred to as "Magic Johansen."

The other thing that struck me as odd was that at the very beginning of his press conference (seen below), Johnson started by saying, "Because of the HIV virus that I have attained, I will have to retire from the Lakers."

Attained? By definition the word attained means:  to succeed in achieving something that one desires and has worked for.

Acquired, yes. Attained, no.

It wasn't until about a decade later that the specter of possibly having the HIV virus hit me closer to home. A HELL OF A LOT closer.

My longtime girlfriend at the time got a shocking call from out of the blue one night from an old boyfriend she hadn't seen in years. He was calling to inform her that he was diagnosed with the HIV virus and that she needed to have herself tested. Which, of course, meant that I, too, needed to be tested.

I can tell you this much: The wait for lab results feels like an eternity. When the letter from the Health Department came to my mailbox with my test results, I almost DIDN'T want to open it. I sat in my car, not even wanting to go inside until I knew the outcome. There were about 20 separate printed lines on the paper, each with a square next to them to put a check mark into. My eyes jutted to the only line that had a mark next to it. It said the test results were negative. "NEGATIVE?" I thought to myself. "Oh, wait! That means I DON'T have HIV! That's POSITIVE!"

I've not had a more concentrated harrowing moment in my life, but all is well that ends well.

  • IF you have ever been promiscuous in your life, used intravenous drugs, etc., and have never been tested for the HIV virus to your knowledge, it would probably be wise. There are a number of clinics in Yakima and Kittitas counties that can test you, some for no cost.Symptoms of the HIV virus include:
    flu-like symptoms that include fever, rash, swollen lymph nodes, headache and fatigue, according to the Mayo Clinic. These symptoms usually appear between 30 and 60 days after a person has been infected, and they may be mistaken for another viral infection.