magic-johnson_web.jpgWILTON MANORS – Florida ranks third in the U.S. in the number of persons living with AIDS and ranks second in the number of pediatric AIDS cases. Broward County has the second highest number of new AIDS cases per capita in the country.

The sponsors of a new museum are hoping to generate greater awareness by capturing the history of this devastating disease and remembering those still living with AIDS and the virus which causes it.

The World AIDS Museum, dedicated recently, will officially open in early 2014 at 1201 NE 26th St., Suite 111, Wilton Manors.

The mission of the museum is to increase awareness and counter the stigma of the AIDS epidemic by documenting the history of HIV/AIDS, remembering the people who have suffered from the disease, educating people about HIV/AIDS, enlightening the world to the continuing tragedy and empowering the survivors.

 “Creating this museum was the brainchild of a support group of individuals living with HIV/AIDS,” said Steve Stagon, president and CEO of the World AIDS Museum. “Approximately six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust and, in the tragedy of Sept. 11, nearly 3,000 people lost their lives. To date, HIV/AIDS has taken the lives of 26 million people. The museum will remind people of all those that have been lost and the work still left to be done.”

Professional basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson, chairman and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises and possibly the most recognized person living with HIV, showed up at the dedication to lend his support. Attendees also included Broward County School Board Member Rosalind Osgood, representatives of community organizations, health care providers, sponsors and those living with HIV/AIDS.

 “It’s my 22nd anniversary today. I announced 22 years ago to the day that I was HIV positive. So it’s a really special day for me and special time,” Johnson said at the Nov. 7 dedication. “At my foundation, we are saving lives because we’ve been about driving people to get tested, raising awareness and taking care of people – those who can’t afford their medication and those living with the disease.”

Johnson and his company partnered with Simple Healthcare Plans through Clear Health Alliance to support the museum and let the community know that there is health insurance available for those on Medicaid who are living with HIV/AIDS.

Clear Health Alliance is the first Medicaid plan designated with a specialty for those living with the disease. The company’s goal is to provide high-quality healthcare for the growing AIDS population in Florida, many of whom do not have access to care.

“We’ve got a long way to go but we are making great strides,” Johnson said. “This museum will help our efforts. We’ve got to continue to work together. That is the key. Because it’s going to take all of us to drive the numbers down. It’s going to take all of us to change society, the thinking. It’s going to take all of us to work hand in hand for this fight that we are all involved in.”