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World-renowned HIV/AIDS activist, advocate, and fighter Hydeia Broadbent has died. Over the past day, several sources have confirmed her passing on social media, including Hydeia’s father, her friend and fellow AIDS activist, Rae Lewis-Thornton, and her friend Jurnee Smollett.

For many of us ’80s babies, Hydeia was the first person we saw who looked just like us with HIV/AIDS. She was one of the youngest advocates in history. Born with the disease, she was diagnosed at age three and became an advocate at age six. By age 12, her story made it to the international stage.

Hydeia Broadbent looked like me. The only difference was she spoke to Oprah Winfrey about having HIV/AIDS.

The 2000 Martin Luther King Jr. Marade, Denver Hydeia Broadbent, who was born HIV positive, (from Las Vegas, age 15) spoke to the crowd in City Park. Behind her is Michael Hancock. She was the Grand Marshall of the Marade.

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I remember seeing her on the Oprah Winfrey show. I was captivated – as were many others in the televised audience  – by her every word. She was chocolate like me and my age. Her hair was in braids, like mine. And she reminded me of my younger cousins, neighbors, and friends at church. 

The only difference was she was speaking on national television about having HIV/AIDS. Answering questions about her experience, she told Oprah the “hardest part” about the disease was losing her friends.

“No one really knows how long anyone’s going to live. Because I don’t put myself like, ‘Oh, you have AIDS,’ or I could go outside and get hit by a bus tomorrow, and you never know. If you stay in bed and feel sorry for yourself and don’t get up with the birds and just sit there and say, ‘I’m gonna die,’ why [not] get up and try and make a difference? When you say, ‘Well, today is another day I can get up, I can do something and make something positive,'” she said during the interview.

Hydeia Broadbent’s visibility and courage broke stigmas and changed conversations.

As a fan and supporter, there seemed to be something special about Hydeia. At 12, she was already thinking about how her life impacted others. Despite her age and innocence, she fully embraced responsibility.

Later in life, Hydeia told the U.S. Office of Women’s Health, “I have to say it’s a blessing to be able to turn something negative into something positive. Helping others remain HIV-negative or inspiring others living with HIV or AIDS to see the beauty in each day and not give up has given me a sense of purpose.”

Her purpose took her to several international stages, conferences, and events. She won numerous awards, such as the Trumpet Community Activist Award, and collaborated with celebrities such as Mariah Carey, Nas, Magic Johnson, and Janet Jackson. And in 2002, Hydeia published “You Get Past The Tears,” a memoir.

Coca Cola Presents the 2006 Essence Music Festival - Day 3

Source: Johnny Nunez / Getty

Further, Hydeia made HIV/AIDS real for us. Hydeia’s visibility, courage, and fearlessness changed perspectives, broke stigmas, and evolved conversations.

But her image wasn’t one of pity but of beauty, resilience, and strength. And that strength we remember today. Known as ‘Deia to her friends, Hydeia lived a full life. Her social media pages show she enjoyed short nails, her natural hair, and her sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho, Sorority, Inc.

Defeating the odds – and many medical predictions – Hydeia passed away at age 39. See Jurnee Smollett’s fitting tribute to Hydeia below.


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