In March, Magic Johnson’s documentary The Announcement aired on ESPN and he was reunited with Hydeia Broadbent, a woman he’d first met when she was a child in 1992. Then, Johnson and 7-year-old, HIV-positive Broadbent were part of a Nickelodeon special on HIV/AIDS, which put a younger face to the disease, according to CNN.
During the broadcast, Broadbent wept, telling Johnson that she just wanted to be treated like other children and not like someone who was different because of her disease. The little girl inspired Johnson to become one of America’s leading activists against HIV/AIDS in the black community (and a 2011 honoree in The Root 100).
The moment was not lost on Broadbent, either, who now is as outspoken as Johnson.
“Hydeia means the world to me,” Johnson said. “When I first met her 20 years ago and saw how emotional and devastated she was by the treatment she was getting from other people, it just broke my heart into pieces.
“That very moment was both sad and inspirational. 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.”
Now 27, Hydeia remains a bundle of energy, an inspirational woman whose voice refuses to be silent. She speaks at conferences, universities and schools with a passion to inform America’s youth about the realities of living with HIV/AIDS: of sleepless nights, of nauseated mornings, of never-ending doctor’s appointments and tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills.
“I try to tell it as real as I can, that this isn’t a disease they want,” she said. “The current generation, they don’t know the reality of HIV/AIDS. They look at me and Magic Johnson and think you can pop a pill and be OK. They don’t know the seriousness of the disease. They don’t know the side effects of the medicine. They don’t know the financial realities of the situation.
“They really don’t know that you can die.”