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Hydeia Broadbent, Prominent HIV/AIDS Activist, Dies at 39

After being born HIV-positive, Hydeia Broadbent spent the majority of her life advocating for HIV/AIDS awareness

<p>Robin L Marshall/Getty</p> Hydeia Broadbent

Robin L Marshall/Getty

Hydeia Broadbent

Hydeia Broadbent, longtime activist who rose to fame for being a child living with HIV/AIDS, has died at age 39.

On Wednesday, her father Loren Broadbent announced her death on Facebook.

“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 wrote alongside a photo of her. “Despite facing numerous challenges throughout her life, Hydeia remained determined to spread hope and positivity through education around HIV/AIDS.”

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Broadbent’s activism began at a young age. She was abandoned as an infant at the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas, where she was later adopted. She was diagnosed as HIV-positive at 3 years old with advancement to AIDS, although it was presumed she had the illness since birth. Doctors told Broadbent’s parents that she would not live past age 5.

As a child, Broadbent appeared on a 1992 Nickelodeon special about HIV/AIDS with Magic Johnson, shortly after the basketball star shared his own HIV diagnosis with the world. She also told her story on numerous television programs, including Oprah, 20/20, and Good Morning America.

"Hydeia changed the world with her bravery, speaking about how living with HIV affected her life since birth," Johnson wrote in a tribute on X, formerly known as Twitter. "She dedicated her life to activism and became a change agent in the HIV/AIDS fight. 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."

"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. Cookie and I are praying for the Broadbent family and everyone that knew and loved Hydeia," Johnson added.

“I am the future, and I have AIDS. I can do anything I put my mind to,” the activist declared at 12 years old while reciting a poem at the Republican National Convention in 1996. “I am the next doctor. I am the next lawyer. I am the next Maya Angelou. I might even be the first woman president… You can’t crush my dream. I am the future, and I have AIDS.”

<p>Robin L Marshall/Getty</p> Hydeia Broadbent

Robin L Marshall/Getty

Hydeia Broadbent

Over the years, Broadbent dedicated herself to educating those living with HIV/AIDS about abstinence, safe sex practices, and raising awareness for prevention. She said her mission was “simply to inform & create dialogue around HIV/AIDS in our homes, communities, educational institutions & churches.”

"People think because I was born with HIV my story does not apply to them," she wrote on her website. "Well, this same disease I am living with is the same disease you can get if you are aware and informed. I use my testimony as a warning of what you don’t want to go through."

Related: Magic Johnson Praises Son EJ as a 'Beautiful Gay Man' as NBA Star Is Honored at End AIDS Gala

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Following the news of her death, Jurnee Smollett shared a heartfelt message about Broadbent as the two had been best friends since she was 13.

“Witnessing her continuously triumph over tragedy and use her time here as a beacon of hope was like witnessing the divine in motion,” she wrote alongside a compilation video of their friendship over the years. “My warrior woman, who literally fought her entire life to save the lives of others, Hydeia raised the consciousness and fought to destigmatize issues around HIV/AIDS. Hydeia made us all better. SHE LITERALLY BLAZED TRAILS WHERE THERE WERE NONE. She and I grew into women together and Hydeia was a huge inspiration for me to use my life for a bigger purpose.”

Smollett continued, “I thank God for her light, her will. I will miss her laughter, her dancing, her joyous smile that lit up her beautiful big cheeks, her awful taste in tv shows, her hilarious way of making fun of how I’m really a boring nerd inside, our drives listening to music really loud, the tears we shed over heartbreaks, the way she wore her heart on her sleeve and was unable to get through a motivational talk without tearing up at some point. Courage was her middle name. A literal goddess with an otherworldly strength. A warrior’s heart who fought till the end. Rest well beautiful one. Love you forever, Deia. #RIP 💔💔💔 #HydeiaBroadbent.”

Fellow AIDS activist and author Rae Lewis-Thornton also shared his condolences.

“I’m sad to announce that renowned AIDS Activist Hydeia Broadbent passed away today,” she posted on X, formerly Twitter. “Over the years our paths crossed so much we became friends. Rest my sister Rest. Your legacy will live forever. Good and faithful servant well done ❤️🙏🏽love you Deia.”

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