'Magic's' book on avoiding AIDS gives blunt advice

"I never thought HIV could happen to me. That kind of ignorance is killing us."

& Earvin "Magic" Johnson


"What You Can Do To Avoid AIDS."

Earvin Johnson's book is due in the stores today. In Baltimore, it will be available at B Dalton Bookseller and Waldenbooks, among other stores.


"What You Can Do to Avoid AIDS" (Time Books, $3.99) is nearly 200 pages of plain-speaking Magic, easing the reader into the chilling reality that there is no such thing as safe sex. Safer sex, says Magic Johnson, is as good as it's going to get.

"I decided to do it because education, especially for young people, is our best weapon in the battle against AIDS. I think young people are going to listen to what I have to say -- in the book, in the media. And I'm going to keep spreading the word until we stop this epidemic," he says.

The book is being heralded by the American Medical Association and other groups as one that "could help save lives."

Although Joyce Dennison, the administrator of Maryland's AIDS hot line, hasn't yet had a chance to read the book, she says Mr. Johnson's disclosure that he carries the virus has already done much to increase the public's awareness. Indeed, calls to the state AIDS hot line tripled after his disclosure last November, she says.

"He definitely has made heterosexuals aware that it is not who you are but what you engage in that matters," Ms. Dennison says. "If you engage in risky behaviors you are susceptible to AIDS."

There's no innovative advice in the book. Mr. Johnson's message -- honest, sometimes even crude -- is one of simple definitions, no-frills explanations and step-by-step pointers. The AIDS-infected star athlete doesn't risk being misinterpreted. "I'm not trying to offend anyone," Mr. Johnson explains. "I'm trying to educate everyone in the best and most direct way possible."

His most important message -- "You don't get HIV because of who you are, you get it because of what you do" -- literally jumps out at the reader in boldface. His advice to parents ("Don't wait for kids to ask about sex") emphasizes that HIV and AIDS are now fundamental components of the birds-and-bees routine. Coming to grips with condoms is one of the key lessons, starting with buying etiquette ("Being embarrassed is better than being dead") and building up to an eight-step instruction -- complete with diagrams on how to put, and keep, the condom on. He advocates practice. Lots of it. Boys on themselves, girls on vegetables.

"He has created a much-needed HIV educational tool to explain practical HIV prevention information to America's young people," says Ernesto Honjos, educational director at the Gay Men's Health Crisis. "Magic's book is a fantastic resource to help explain what HIV is, how to prevent it and how to help people who have it."