The 7-Year-Old HIV Positive Girl Who Changed Magic Johnson
Twenty years ago, Hydeia Broadbent met Magic Johnson in a Nickolodeon AIDS special. 7-year-old Hydeia, like the NBA legend was HIV positive.
In an intimate conversation caught on camera, Hydeia tells Magic tearfully, “I want people to know that we’re just normal people.”
“Aww, you don’t have to cry,” Johnson responded, as he touched her shoulder, “because we are normal people. Ok? We are.”
While Magic contracted the disease when he had unprotected sex, Hydeia was infected with AIDS at birth due to her mom’s unsanitary and frequent drug use.
In 1987, the year that marked the slow creep of the AIDS epidemic, Loren and Patricia Broadbent, Hydeia’s adoptive parents received a phone call that would change their lives.
A hospital official told the Broadbents that Hydeia’s biological mom left another baby boy in the hospital. The boy tested positive for AIDS; Hydeia would need to get tested.
Two weeks later, they received the results that confirmed their worst fears: Hydeia had AIDS. The state had offered to take their daughter back, but the adoptive parents adamantly refused.
Medical officials immediately handed their child a death sentence, telling the already shocked parents that Hydeia will not live past the age of 5.
Fortunately for Hydeia, her parents refused to give up on her.
As a family, they traveled frequently to Los Angeles to receive medical treatment and attended conferences to learn more about the disease. With the doctor’s recommendation, they enrolled her in the National Institute of Health in Maryland which in turn, prescribed an ‘AIDS cocktail’, drugs that control, but not cure the disease.
“If it wasn’t for that NIH program,” her dad said, “I honestly believe Hydeia wouldn’t be here today.”
While receiving treatment at the NIH facility, Hydeia met Elizabeth Glaser, wife of Paul Michael Glaser, who became HIV positive after an infected blood transfusion. (Glaser’s daughter died of AIDS after contracting it from her breastmilk while her next son also contracted HIV). Glaser was charmed by Hydeia and asked her parents if Hydeia could speak on behalf of the disease.
“I started speaking out because a lot of my friends were not public with the fact they had HIV/AIDS,” Hydeia recounted. “They hid in secrecy. Their schoolmates didn’t even know.”
In a 1996 convention, Hydeia, then 12 has become the new face of the AIDS epidemic among children. She tells the crowd, “I am the future, and I have AIDS.”
Twenty years after their first encounter, Hydeia and Magic remain friends and are both prominent HIV activists. Hydeia speaks at conferences and universities to spread awareness and share her own experience of the debilitating disease.
“I try to tell it as real as I can, that this isn’t a disease they want,” Hydeia explained. “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.
Magic will always remember that life-altering meeting with the sad 7-year-old girl. “Hydeia means the world to me,” Johnson explained. “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.”
“To see her now as a thriving, healthy, smart and beautiful young lady makes me feel good and very proud,” Johnson said. “She is doing a tremendous job and touching so many young people with her HIV/AIDS education and outreach initiatives.”
“I don’t know how to describe it,” Hydeia responded, “just shocked to know that I played a big part in his life.”
Almost 1.2 million Americans are infected with HIV. “We have grown complacent in America, and in our complacency we’ve failed to educate our youth. There’s so much misinformation. People think there’s a cure.” Hydeia added. “They think Magic’s cured. There is no cure.”
At 27-years-old, Hydeia still continues to battle the disease, receiving a daily medication of five pills. “If you’re HIV-negative, I would say, ‘Stay that way.’ If you’re positive, I would say, ‘There’s life after a positive test result, but it is a hassle,’ ” Hydeia said.
Watch more about Hydeia and Magic below.