HIV-Positive Activist Fights for AIDS Awareness: Q&A with Hydeia Broadbent
Hydeia Broadbent was three years old when she was diagnosed with HIV. Her adoptive parents had her tested after receiving a call from the state of Nevada telling them that her birth mother had tested positive for AIDS.
Advancements in the treatment of HIV/AIDS have meant that the disease is no longer a death sentence. At 28, Broadbent is one of a generation of young adults grappling with what she calls a “life sentence.” She has made it her job to educate the public about the condition and advocate for those who have the disease. Here are her lessons on living life with HIV/AIDS.
Q. What does it mean for you and your peers, growing up and knowing you can live a life with HIV/AIDS?
A.I’m very grateful because I know I can have kids without passing it on and that it isn’t a death sentence. But because we focus so much on people living longer and their quality of life, we forgot to warn the young generation of what the reality of HIV and AIDS is. They look at me or Magic Johnson and say, ‘We will pop a pill and be OK if we get AIDS.’ But the drugs are expensive and the side effects are harsh on your body. This generation doesn’t understand the reality of it. We have become complacent because the quality of life is better.
Q. How do you use social media to get your message out?
A. I use my Web site, http://hydeiabroadbent.com. I have a lot of followers and just tweet about struggles like ongoing health issues, finding care and when I have issues with my medication. I think it kind of gives people a glimpse into what the day-to-day life is with HIV. A reality of what AIDS is like. Through Twitter I have been able to write blogs for a lot of sites and have gotten a lot of attention. I also talk about it on Facebook and people can see the PSAs I do on YouTube.
My goal is to bring back the reality of AIDS to people. The new infection rates are alarming. People aren’t talking about it and I am afraid they will wait until it gets really bad again to start. It is really hard to get people to talk about it and realize the seriousness of AIDS in America.
Q. Do you think social media is the best way to reach a younger, plugged-in generation?
A.I don’t believe we should abandon the old methods of teaching. We need health education in schools and one-on-ones. I tour and find that speaking on college campuses reaches the community directly.
Q. How do you feel about current media coverage of HIV/AIDS and people who are HIV positive?
A. It is really lacking. There is not enough, especially considering the reports from the CDC about the new number of infections. It could be because the life expectancy and medications are better. We aren’t talking about it because we aren’t seeing people die at an alarming rate. But they are still dying.
Sometimes, I wonder if it is a race thing. In the late 80s when it was predominantly white gay males getting AIDS and it was in the white community, there was a lot of coverage. They encouraged people to get tested and it was there and in your face for so long. But there is a state of emergency in the black community. We are only 13 percent of the population but we make up 46 percent of new HIV/AIDS infections. I don’t understand why people aren’t talking about it, especially with women of color.
Q. What stories would you like to see about people like yourself?
A. We should talk about why it is spreading so fast in the African-American community and do what we can to educate those in the community.
I think we need to do more stories on treatment and life expectancy so we can encourage people to seek treatment and get care. Many people still do see it as a death sentence. They need to know there is life after a positive test result.
But we also have to instill that people who are negative need to stay negative at all costs. It is not an easy life, being HIV-positive. As an adult, I’ve come to really realize the seriousness of it. People should realize how tricky it is to stay on medication programs – if you make too much, you get kicked off and the meds alone can cost $3,500 and up a month. The cost of living with AIDS is very high.