This was the shock of 1992 in tennis.
Ashe's disclosure brings shock, support - Magic: I applaude his decision
Thursday, April 9, 1992
Bill Barnard, The Associated Press
The sports world was stunned again Wednesday when Arthur Ashe disclosed that he has AIDS, a disease his friends say is striking one of tennis' most admired figures.
Ashe said Wednesday he has known about having the AIDS virus since 1988. He said he was certain he got the virus during heart surgery, either in 1979 or 1983, when blood was not yet being screened for the AIDS virus.
Magic Johnson, who retired from the Lakers on Nov. 7 after learning he is HIV positive, said in a release that he wanted to "extend my full support and prayers to Arthur, his family and friends. It takes great courage and strength to make such an announcement.
"I'm sure Arthur will meet this challenge head on and become a leading voice in the fight to educate, raise funds and increase awareness to all, especially our youth. I applaude his decision to make his condition known and I'm eager to speak with him so that we may join forces in our efforts."
"Arthur is one of the great human beings ever to play the game of tennis," Chris Evert said. "It just seems so unfair that in his young life he has had a heart attack, open-heart surgery and now has to be stricken with this virus.
"I've known Arthur for 20 years and he's always been a gentleman and a great ambassador for tennis. I'm praying for him," she said.
"It's sad anytime you hear someone has the disease," Steffi Graf said at a tournament at Amelia Island, Fla. "They need to find a way to treat it. A lot of great people have been affected by it."
Zina Garrison added: "When I was first told of Arthur's announcement I was just overwhelmed. I have been aware of AIDS, but I never knew anyone so close to me with it. It's kind of shocking. It shows that this disease can hit anyone. This is just another example why everyone should take the disease seriously and face the reality that AIDS has no boundaries.
"He has been a great influence in my life, both on and off the court. . . . He is a very close friend, and my thoughts are with him."
ESPN commentator Cliff Drysdale, a long-time friend of Ashe, said Ashe had confided to him that he was thinking of going public.
"He had some practical reasons from the standpoint of wanting to continue to travel. He thought there might be some restrictions on people with AIDS going abroad," Drysdale said.
Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, who has known Ashe since his childhood, said Ashe told him that he plans to remain active and to help educate the public about AIDS.
"I said to him that I thought it appropriate that that effort be made. I said I was very saddened by it and I wanted to help in any way I could. He said, `You could help a great deal by saying I'm positive and that I intend to continue to carry on,'" Wilder said.
Vijay Amritraj, a former tennis opponent of Ashe and now a member of the Association of Tennis Professionals board of directors, said he always admired and respected Ashe as a player and competitor.
"I have always had the highest regard for the way he conducted himself on and off the court," Amritraj said. "He made us all proud to be tennis players. Arthur and some of our dear friends were the founding fathers of the ATP, and we would be nowhere without their strength and vision.
"I only hope that a cure can be found and this disease defeated. I want Arthur to know that he has my full support and the backing of the ATP Tour."
Louis W. Sullivan, secretary of Health and Human Services, said Ashe's story is especially tragic because the disease "was acquired through what should have been a lifesaving procedure -- a blood transfusion."
"Unfortunately, Arthur Ashe received blood during a surgical procedure in 1983, before blood tests for the HIV virus were available," Sullivan said. "Beginning in 1985, all blood donations were required to pass a universally accepted test for the HIV virus.
"Today, thanks to stringent testing and in-depth donor profile questionnaires, the nation's blood supply is safer than ever before. Those receiving blood transfusions do not need to worry that the HIV virus might be present."