For more than 20 years, Hydeia Broadbent has been telling her story of living with AIDS.
Broadbent, 28, has been traveling the country since she was six years old, helping educate people about what it means to live with HIV.
On Wednesday, her travels brought her to the Nissan Auditorium on the Mississippi University for Women campus, where she shared her story with students.
Broadbent was born with the disease, but was not diagnosed with AIDS until she was 3. Her biological mother passed HIV to her in childbirth. When her adopted parents got the diagnosis, they decided to let their daughter tour the nation in an effort to put a face to the disease that was rapidly killing thousands of people at the time.
At the time, most people associated HIV and AIDS only with homosexuality. Broadbent was a living example that the disease went far beyond the homosexual community. In turn, she feels she has helped change public perceptions.
At age 7, she appeared with Magic Johnson, an athlete who publicly announced he, too, was living with HIV, on a Nickelodeon special to talk to kids about the disease. She also appeared on the Oprah TV show and spoke at the Republican National Convention in 1996.
Broadbent spoke of how advancements in modern medicine have saved her life. When she was diagnosed, the doctors did not expect her to live past the age of 5. Now, 23 years later, Broadbent said she is a walking testament that you can live with AIDS.
However, she was quick to note that the disease is still a complicated and dangerous illness that can control your life.
“Once you contract HIV, there is no going back,” she said. “It may not be a death sentence anymore but it’s a life sentence.”
Broadbent encouraged the MUW students to talk with their partners about getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases before they have sex.
“HIV is 100-percent preventable,” she noted.
Broadbent also urged to students to practice safe sex by being in a monogamous relationship and always using a condom.
In an effort to put a dollar value on the cost of the disease, Broadbent told the students her medicine alone cost $5,000 a month.
While she is taking her medication, Broadbent said her disease has potential complications that could easily affect her health.
“It’s not as easy as popping a pill,” she said.
The disease impacts life on all levels, she said.
“It affects you mind, body and soul,” Broadbent said. “I’m 28 and I’m still not use to it.”
As part of HIV Prevention Week, students can get tested for HIV on the MUW campus today until 4 p.m.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
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