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Prominent AIDS Activist Born With HIV Dies at 39

Robin L Marshall/Getty Images
Robin L Marshall/Getty Images

Hydeia Broadbent, who was born with HIV and became a prominent campaigner fighting against the stigma and ignorance surrounding the virus and AIDS, died on Tuesday, her family said. She was 39.

“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,” her adoptive father, Loren Broadbent, announced in a Facebook post. No cause of death was given, but he later said she had “unexpectedly passed away” in a GoFundMe set up to support her funeral costs.

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According to her website, Hydeia was adopted by Loren and Patricia Broadbent as an infant after she was abandoned at a Las Vegas medical center. Although she was born with HIV, she was not diagnosed until she was 3. The biography says she started speaking out as an activist raising awareness about HIV/AIDS just three years later.

Even as a child, she began appearing on national television shows to speak out against the stigma surrounding the illness. In 1992, at the age of 7, she appeared on a Nickelodeon special alongside Magic Johnson not long after the basketball star had also publicly announced his own HIV diagnosis.

“I want people to know that we are just normal people,” Broadbent said on the show, before breaking down in tears. Johnson shared a clip of the special in an X post paying tribute to Broadbent on Wednesday, saying that he was “devastated to hear about the passing of an incredible young woman, activist and hero.”

“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. “Thanks to Hydeia, millions were educated, stigmas were broken, and attitudes about HIV/AIDs were changed. We will miss her powerful voice in this world.”

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