Twenty years ago, a little girl with HIV captured the hearts of a country grappling with an epidemic when she appeared on a Nickelodeon special and tearfully told basketball legend Magic Johnson that she “just wanted people to know that we’re normal people.”
Despite dire medical predictions that she wouldn’t survive childhood, today that little girl is all grown up and still speaking out. Hydeia Broadbent, now 28, travels the country speaking on behalf of the Magic Johnson Foundation, with AIDS activist organizations, and as part of her own continued efforts (HydeiaBroadbent.com) to raise awareness around HIV and AIDS. As a child with congenital HIV in the late 1980s, Broadbent faced discrimination on a regular basis, and she uses those experiences to educate her audiences.
“When I was a little girl in kindergarten, there was a teacher who was very apprehensive about me being in her class,” Broadbent recalls. Despite Broadbent’s adoptive parents reaching out to the teacher, principal, and faculty, Broadbent still faced an uphill battle. “I sneezed and I cleaned it up and washed my hands. But then the teacher was so freaked out that she actually sprayed me with bleach because she thought HIV/AIDS might be airborne. Which it’s not.”
Watch Hydeia on Where are They Now? below:
Watch Hydeia on the Nickelodeon special below: