Hydeia Broadbent, a prominent HIV/AIDS activist, dies at 39

Hydeia Broadbent attends the Los Angeles premiere of Apple's "They Call Me Magic" at Regency Village Theatre on April 14, 2022 in Los Angeles, Calif.
Hydeia Broadbent attends the Los Angeles premiere of Apple's "They Call Me Magic" at Regency Village Theatre on April 14, 2022 in Los Angeles, Calif.
Leon Bennett/Getty Images

Updated February 22, 2024 at 1:08 AM ET

Hydeia Broadbent, known for raising awareness to lessen the stigma around HIV/AIDS from a young age, has died at 39 years old. She was one of the faces of children with AIDS in America, especially within the African American community.

Her father, Loren Broadbent, confirmed her unexpected passing in a message posted to Facebook on Tuesday. He did not share the cause of death.

"With great sadness, I must inform you all that our beloved friend, mentor and daughter Hydeia, passed away today after living with Aids since birth," he said in the social media post. "Despite facing numerous challenges throughout her life, Hydeia remained determined to spread hope and positivity through education around Hiv/AIDS."

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At age 3, Broadbent was diagnosed as positive with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The disease was passed down by her mother, an IV drug user who left her at the hospital, and doctors predicted she wouldn't live past age 5.

But by the time Broadbent was 6 years old, she was already sharing her story publicly with the encouragement of her adoptive parents.

Over the years, she made various national appearances to raise awareness about HIV, including appearing on the Oprah Winfrey Show and on a Nickelodeon special alongside Magic Johnson.

"I want people to know that we're just normal people," a tearful Broadbent said in the 1992 special.

In an interview with CNN 20 years later, Johnson said that the moment was pivotal for him.

"That very moment was both sad and inspirational," he told CNN. "It made me want to do more to bring awareness to the disease and educate people so that no one would have to feel the way she did that day."

In 1996, Broadbent would appear at the Republican National Convention and famously state, "I am the future, and I have AIDS."

In 2002, her family published “You Get Past the Tears: A Memoir of Love and Survival” about their experiences.

She is also known for her work with the Let's Stop HIV Together campaign launched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and establishing the Hydeia L. Broadbent Foundation.

In a post written on her website in 2018, Broadbent marked her 34th birthday as someone in "the first generation of children born HIV positive."

"I am here, a force to be reckon with," she wrote. "These last few years have been extremely difficult; struggles with depression, which reached scary points. A depression so dark, I was not sure how I would see the beauty in life again. I was unsure of how I'd pull myself back up. I now have a new outlook, I'm able to now see the blessing's, and lesson's from my valley."

A GoFundMe organized by her father can be found here.

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