Growing up in the 90’s, it is not easy to forget those who mustered up the courage to appear on national syndicated talk programs, where they detailed impactful incidents while addressing how they managed to not let it interfere with their lives. Hydeia Broadbent embodied that example, and years later she is still addressing an issue: smiling in the face of AIDS.
Since her birth on June 14, 1984, Broadbent, a Las Vegas native, has been HIV positive. Abandoned by her drug-abusing biological mother and raised by adoptive parents, the young Broadbent sought medical treatment throughout her early life, traveling from state to state in a desperate attempt to find an answer to the life-threatening disease.
The time would come when Broadbent, at five-years-old, was enrolled at the Maryland-based National Institutes of Health (NIH). There, Broadbent garnered attention from famous AIDS activist Elizabeth Glaser, who branded Broadbent her hero and willingly asked Broadbent’s mother, shortly before her death, if the young AIDS sufferer could speak publicly of her experience.
Her mother agreed, and what soon followed were iconic visuals featuring Broadbent advocating for increased awareness of the misconceptions concerning HIV/AIDS.
Among those pieces included the 1992 Nickelodeon televised special featuring famed basketball player Magic Johnson. The televised event presented a group of kids whose lives had been altered by the contraction of AIDS, and also featured a weeping Broadbent who cried and yearned for the comfort of former playmates that lost their lives to AIDS.
The awareness statement soon accumulated not only news coverage, but also assorted views from several activists and entertainers, including Broadbent’s favorite singer, Janet Jackson.
Just two years following the child-targeted special, Broadbent already possessed various experiences and accolades under her belt. The young activist toured with the likes of Billy Ray Cyrus at AIDS-benefit concerts, established the Hydeia L. Broadbent Foundation and soon attained her first honorific recognition from the Black Achievers Awards, as documented in the March 1994 issue of JET Magazine.
The philanthropic win would open the door to more opportunities for Broadbent to voice the adjustments she had to make as means to survive with an AIDS infection.
From guest college lectures to documentary segments, Hydeia Broadbent earned eligibility as a guest attendant on a 1996 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show.
During her televised appearance, Broadbent disclosed the horrors of how AIDS altered her immunity and health. The tiny advocate shared that fungus was growing on her brain and that blood infections increased her chance of dying, but among the most difficult for Broadbent to fathom was the reality that AIDS-infected friends of her own had died.
Her emotional plea was not the only massive reception-generator of 1996; an esteemed hearing at a Californian Republican rally would position Broadbent for popular philanthropic stardom.
“I am the future, and I have AIDS” served as vital words that emphasized Broadbent’s command upon the political stage and would go on to captivate a nation, placing pressure on politicians to up the ante on awareness of and medical tactics towards combating the harrowing sexual disease.
With high achievements and laudable recognition channeling from coast to coast, Broadbent felt inner torment eating away at her as she struggled with the overwhelming responsibilities of being a humanitarian success, all while battling deep depression. By the late 90’s, it became all too much for the young AIDS sufferer.
From 1998 to 2011, Broadbent kept a low profile to explore what she had left of her youthful years. But during her public absence, Broadbent’s name still managed to surface in scarce reports and rare public television appearances.
The Broadbent family’s book, “You Get Past the Tears,” published in 2002, and their 2004 feature on ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” were close enough to what the nation would get as far as Hydeia Broadbent’s health progress was concerned.
However, she would not be missing from the public eye for long. In May 2012, Broadbent’s name reemerged when she was tapped for commentary in a CNN article detailing her involvement with the ESPN documentary “The Announcement,” a visual featuring AIDS sufferer Magic Johnson, who had previously met Broadbent in his Nickelodeon-sponsored special decades prior.
Within the news report, Broadbent was deemed a “life changer” by Johnson for her courage in sharing her turbulent struggles of living with AIDS at such a young age.
Further media buzz skyrocketed when Broadbent was highly requested by audiences to be featured in a 2014 “Where Are They Now” special on The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), catching viewers up on how her personal life has progressed, specifically concerning romantic relationships and steady donative work.
Broadbent, now 31-years-old, is still vowing to remain a pivotal voice in the HIV/AIDS community to convey her message that AIDS is neither something to play around with nor something that should be viewed as an easy way of living.
Broadbent feels the burden day-in and day-out of taking a handful of medications each day to prevent potential AIDS-induced infections, citing the responsibility as a “life sentence” rather than a “death sentence,” especially when dealing with financial hardships relating to medical insurance.
Nevertheless, the series of frustrations stemming from medical visits has not interrupted her diligent work ethic as a key speaker for AIDS awareness programs.
As recently as February 2015, Broadbent has added another endorsement to her extensive list of accolades: she was chosen as a partner for “Ampro Pro Style” beauty line to raise awareness of the National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. This was part of a campaign to increase efforts to educate black communities on the basics of how to prevent the sexual disease.
Yet it is not only endorsements that Broadbent continues to accumulate on her shelf of awards. Known for the lectures and speeches she gives yearly in college and academic settings, in early June 2015, she secured a keynote speaker role at Louisiana-based Southern University’s annual O.M.G. Youth Conference, to elaborate on the AIDS crisis with young women in a “girl talk-style outlet.”
With further academic orations and pending documentary plans still going strong, Broadbent works effortlessly to remind the unaware of the dangers that await them if protection is not fully recognized when engaging in sexual activity.
Broadbent, whose hometown of Las Vegas has commemorated a holiday in her honor, believes that with time and the right medical innovations, HIV/AIDS will eventually be fully eradicated. She concedes, however, that it is going to take time and full knowledge from the public to understand that this is not a disease to joke around with.
As the optimistic Broadbent proclaimed to CNN reporting staff: “[The current generation] thinks [they] can pop a pill and be OK, [but] they don’t know the seriousness of the disease, [let alone medicated] side effects and financial realities of the situation. They really don’t know that you can die.”
– Jefferson Varner IV