Hydeia Broadbent, H.I.V. and AIDS Activist, Dies at 39

Hydeia Broadbent, H.I.V. and AIDS Activist, Dies at 39

Hydeia Broadbent, who was born with H.I.V. and as a child became a leading voice in raising awareness about the virus and AIDS, died on Tuesday at her home in Las Vegas. She was 39.

Her father, Loren Broadbent, confirmed the death. He did not cite the cause.

Ms. Broadbent was 6 years old when she began telling of her struggle with H.I.V. on television, aiming to educate the public amid an epidemic that produced panic and stigma. Even when new treatments dramatically improved the long-term outcomes for people with H.I.V., she stressed that there was no cure and that infection was a life sentence, and she urged people to prevent its spread.

In 1992, when she was 7, Ms. Broadbent was interviewed on Nickelodeon in a special program featuring Magic Johnson, the basketball star, who, after his own H.I.V. diagnosis, became a familiar face in the fight against H.I.V. and AIDS.

“I want people to know that we’re just normal people,” Ms. Broadbent, her face crumpling as she fought through tears, told Mr. Johnson. He gently reassured her, “We are normal people.”

Mr. Johnson posted a clip of the conversation on social media on Wednesday and wrote, “Hydeia changed the world with her bravery, speaking about how living with H.I.V. affected her life since birth.” He added, “Thanks to Hydeia, millions were educated, stigmas were broken, and attitudes about H.I.V./AIDs were changed.”

Interviewed by The New York Times in 2006, Ms. Broadbent said of the televised interview with Mr. Johnson, “I think it just opened a lot of people’s eyes that H.I.V. can happen to anybody, with me being so young.”

By the time she was 12, she had shared her story with numerous national television viewers. At 11, she appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and talked about the myriad health issues she had faced as a toddler and the emotional toll of the disease.

“When I turned 5, I had had symptoms of AIDS,” she said. “I had had fungus in my brain, blood infections, pneumonia.”

Ms. Winfrey asked, “What’s the hardest part for you, Hydeia, living with this disease?”

“When your friends die,” Ms. Broadbent replied. “That’s the hardest part, because you love them and you always lose a friend to AIDS.”

Hydeia Loren Broadbent was born on June 14, 1984, in a Las Vegas hospital. She was abandoned at birth and adopted by Loren and Patricia Broadbent.

Although she had been born with H.I.V., it was not diagnosed until she was 3 years old. Doctors recommended that her parents seek treatment at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., where she was put on a lifesaving cocktail of drugs, her father told CNN in a profile of Ms. Broadbent.

It was at the N.I.H. that Hydeia, a vivacious child, caught the attention of Elizabeth Glaser, founder of a pediatric AIDS foundation. She asked Ms. Broadbent’s mother if she would permit Hydeia to speak publicly.

“I started speaking out because a lot of my friends were not public with the fact they had H.I.V./AIDS,” Ms. Broadbent told CNN in 2012, when she was 27. “They hid in secrecy. Their schoolmates didn’t even know.”

In 1996, at age 12, she spoke at the Republican National Convention in San Diego, where she told delegates, “I am the future, and I have AIDS.”

The illness had affected her learning, keeping her from attending school until the seventh grade. At Odyssey High School in Las Vegas, she was part of a program that allowed her to work from home on a computer.

“My daughter didn’t have a formal education because of her illness,” her mother told The Times in 2001 for an article about teenagers living with AIDS. “My priority was not school, but keeping her healthy for the time she had.”

Ms. Broadbent continued to speak publicly about H.I.V. and AIDS into adulthood. Her work earned her recognition, particularly among African Americans. Ebony magazine twice ranked her among the “Most Influential 150 African Americans,” in 2008 and 2011.

Complete information on survivors was not immediately available.

As an adult, Ms. Broadbent focused on combating the stigma and misinformation surrounding AIDS and educating the public about prevention.

“I have dedicated my whole life to this fight,” she told CNN in 2012. “I don’t hate my life. I feel like I’m really blessed. But at the same time, my life doesn’t have to be their life. I didn’t have a choice when it came to H.I.V./AIDS, and people do have a choice.”

Trip Gabriel contributed reporting.


Liam Garrison

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