Hydeia Broadbent’s story captivated America when at the age of six she emerged on the scene as the world’s youngest HIV/AIDS activist.
A beautiful, well-spoken child, she wise beyond her years and living with HIV. She had contracted the virus congenitally from her mother who was addicted to drugs.
“I was not supposed to live after the age of five, and I’m still here,” Broadbent said in a phone interview.
Now, at the age of 28, she has become an international motivational speaker, activist and living proof to that a person can live happily and healthily despite a positive HIV/AIDS status.
“While I have devoted my life to activism and encouraging people to avoid behaviors that place them at risk for contracting the virus, I want those who have the virus to know living with it may be a little complicated, but it’s not the death sentence that it once was,” she said.
“There is life after a positive test result. Yes you can marry and have children without complication.”
Having lived with the virus for nearly 30 years, Broadbent watched with the rest of the world as the Federal Drug Administration in July 2012 introduced Truvada, the first drug to be approved that reduces the risk of HIV infection in uninfected individuals who engage in sexual activity with HIV-infected partners.
While many see Truvada as a breakthrough drug for HIV prevention in non-infected persons, Broadbent expressed concerns around consistent treatment adherence in infected persons.
“I don’t think you can get people to take a pill every day. I think people need to get educated and change their behavior. If they can’t use condoms, why would they take a pill each day?” Broadbent said.
In addition to her work on prevention, she fights to remove the stigma associated with acquiring and living with HIV/AIDS.
“HIV does not discriminate. We should stop thinking that there’s a certain look. It can happen to anyone at any time and age.”
On this national Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, Sunday, March 10, Broadbent encourages women to “use her testimony as a warning” to prevent themselves from becoming infected. But those who are infected should know: there is hope.
In one of the most heart-wrenching moments in her career, Broadbent encountered a woman who reported having been diagnosed with AIDS and on the brink of committing suicide. The woman said in her darkest hour, she reconsidered after hearing Broadbent on television, gaining a sense of hope and strength from Broadbent’s story.
Like any other woman approaching her thirties, she has short term and long-term goals.
“I want to get married and have kids. I plan to be a business owner,” she said.
In the near future, she plans to produce a documentary, write a book and create an AIDS Awareness campaign with support of the Hip-Hop community to engage young people around HIV/AIDS prevention.
To learn more about Hydeia Broadbent visit www.hydeiabroadbent.com.