Hydeia Broadbent Was a Voice on AIDS at 7

Inspirational activist refused to succumb to self-pity
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 24, 2024 3:00 PM CST
Child With AIDS Made Made Her Mark on Oprah
AIDS activist Mary Fisher kisses 12-year-old Hydeia Broadbent at the 1996 GOP convention in San Diego in 1996.   (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, File)

Hydeia Broadbent, an HIV/AIDS activist who came to national prominence in the 1990s as a young child for her inspirational talks to reduce the stigma surrounding the virus she was born with, has died. She was 39. Broadbent's father announced on Facebook that she had died "after living with Aids since birth" but did not provide more details, the AP reports. The Clark County coroner's office said Broadbent died Tuesday in Las Vegas. "Despite facing numerous challenges throughout her life," Loren Broadbent wrote, "Hydeia remained determined to spread hope and positivity through education around Hiv/AIDS."

Broadbent became a fierce advocate for those living with the disease at a time when medications were not widely available to help manage HIV and the virus was considered a death sentence. Human immunodeficiency virus attacks the body's immune system andcauses AIDS. Broadbent was adopted in Las Vegas by Loren and Patricia Broadbent as a baby; her health condition wasn't known until she became seriously ill at age 3. By 5, Hydeia Broadbent had developed full-blown AIDS. Her mother began giving talks to local groups about the hardship of raising a child with AIDS, and little Hydeia listened, soaking in all she heard. Soon, the girl was speaking before the crowds.

She became a national symbol of HIV/AIDS advocacy at 7, when she joined Magic Johnson on a 1992 Nickelodeon television special, on which the basketball star talked about his own HIV diagnosis. The teary-eyed girl pleaded that all she wanted was for "people (to) know that we're just normal people." In a post on X, Johnson said he was devastated by her death and remembered Broadbent as an activist and hero who "changed the world with her bravery." But it was a 1996 appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show when she was 11 propelled her path into activism.

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In that tearful interview, Broadbent, wearing a silver nose ring and long earrings that swayed when she spoke, tried to smile through tears as she described the hardest part about living with AIDS—losing friends she loves to the disease. In a statement to the AP on Thursday, Winfrey recalled how Broadbent moved her with her refusal to sink into self-pity. "She told me she could either feel sorry for herself or 'try and make a difference … say, today's another day, I can get up, I can do something, and make something positive,'" Winfrey said. "And that really is how she went on to live her life."

(More obituary stories.)

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