Magic Johnson Reflects on Difficulty Telling Wife Cookie About HIV Diagnosis

Magic Johnson is opening up about the most painful moment of his life: having to break the news to his wife, Cookie Johnson, that he was HIV positive. The couple wed just 45 days before Johnson learned of his diagnosis. They'd dated for 14 years on and off prior to tying the knot, and had two canceled weddings. Cookie was pregnant with their first child at the time of Johnson's discovery.

"It was hard because I loved her so much and I hated to hurt her," he told Gayle King in a recent interview. Johnson had no symptoms. He went in for a routine physical and learned he'd contracted the virus after doctors made him come into the office for results. He admits that he'd been reckless sexually, rarely using protection with various women in his life.

"I've played against some of the best basketball players in the world, right? I've been in championships. I've been in nine [NBA] Finals, so I know pressure. But there was no greater pressure than driving home to tell her," he adds. "The key moment was when Cookie took the test and the results came back that she and the baby were fine."

He says Cookie and their unborn child was his top priority. "I wanted to make sure that she was going to be okay, the baby was going to be okay, and then I can move forward with making sure I was going to be okay."

After revealing his diagnosis to the world, the couple were met with some opposition due to lack of education on the virus. "At that time, people weren't educated so they thought you couldn't touch people. You couldn't hug people. And I didn't want people to treat us like we were lepers."


Cookie opened up about learning of her husband's fate in a 2016 interview with Good Morning America's Robin Roberts. "It scared me to death. I mean, I fell to my knees. We both fell on our knees and we started crying. I didn't have time to get mad about whatever happened, you know, or start asking questions. [My mind] went to 'He is possibly going to die. There wasn't a lot of knowledge back in 1991."

Leaving Magic was never an option for her. "He said, 'If you want to leave, you know, I don't blame you. It's OK. I understand.' Then I said, 'Are you kidding me? No. I love you. I'm gonna stay here and help you live. I'm gonna stay here and we're gonna beat this thing. We're gonna figure out how to beat this thing,'" she recalled.