HIV/AIDS activist Hydeia Broadbent, known for her inspirational talks as a young child, dies at 39

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LAS VEGAS — Hydeia Broadbent, the 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 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. HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, attacks the body’s immune system and is the virus that causes AIDS.

Broadbent was adopted in Las Vegas by her parents Loren and Patricia Broadbent as a baby, but her health condition wasn’t known until she became seriously ill at 3. By age 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 enough, 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, where the basketball legend 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, formerly known as Twitter, Johnson said he was devastated by the news of her death and remembered Broadbent as an activist and hero who “changed the world with her bravery.”

“By speaking out at such a young age, she helped so many people, young and old, because she wasn’t afraid to share her story and allowed everyone to see that those living with HIV and AIDS were everyday people and should be treated with respect,” Johnson wrote. “Cookie and I are praying for the Broadbent family and everyone that knew and loved Hydeia.”

But a 1996 appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, when she was 11, propelled her path into activism.

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. But she told the talk-show host that she didn’t spend her days feeling sorry for herself.

“If you stay in your bed and feel sorry for yourself, and you don’t get up with the birds and you just sit there and say, ‘I’m gonna die,’ why not get up and try to make a difference?” Broadbent said. “When you could say, ‘Today is another day. I could get up, I could make something positive.’”

Broadbent continued on the talk show circuit as a child, met the president and first lady, spoke at the 1996 Republican National Convention, and was featured on a segment on ABC’s “20/20.”

Broadbent’s outspoken advocacy continued into adulthood. She spoke at events throughout the country, including a 2014 community forum in Los Angeles and a 2015 panel in Selma, Alabama, highlighting AIDS as a civil rights issue.

Throughout the years, she also partnered with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation on awareness campaigns, including the organization’s “God Loves Me” billboard campaign that featured people living with HIV.

In a statement, AHF remembered Broadbent as a “lifelong AIDS activist.”

“Broadbent continued her fierce and outspoken advocacy throughout her youth and adulthood,” the organization said.

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