Hydeia Broadbent became somewhat of a mini-celebrity 20 years ago as a seven-year-old when she appeared on a Nickelodeon AIDS special. She appeared on the show with basketball great and HIV-positive athlete Magic Johnson — she had been diagnosed with AIDS, basically believed at the time to be a death sentence. She is still alive, and is a public-speaking dynamo. As an early recipient of anti-viral treatments that made AIDS a livable disease, one might expect her to be one of the many who reiterate their positive experiences having the disease, also inadvertently pooh-poohing the seriousness of the disease.
Not her. She does the opposite. She lays bare the consequences of having the disease, in order to encourage people to abstain from behaviors that might lead them to acquire it. She explained in a story for CNN: “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, but it is a hassle.’”
As she told CNN last year, what she accomplishes in a day depends on how she feels:
There are days when Hydeia can’t get out of bed. Sometimes she is so sick her mornings are spent with her head hung over the toilet.
Every morning, she must take her cocktail of five pills. Her tiny frame is partly a result of medicine stunting her growth.
If it’s a good day, she goes to the gym to exercise. Staying fit is key to living with AIDS, she says. She eats healthy too, because a person with HIV/AIDS is more prone to cancer and heart disease....
“There’s so much misinformation. People think there’s a cure … ,” she said. “There is no cure.” …
Although a positive test result is no longer a death sentence, Hydeia says, “it’s a life sentence.”
“It’s always there. You’re always going to have HIV or AIDS. You’re always going to be taking medicine. You’re always going to be going to the doctor’s office. You’re always going to be getting your blood drawn.”
Her medicine costs $3,500 to $5,000 a month.
The story soberly added that “16,000 Americans will die this year from AIDS.”
Yet despite the very harsh realities of HIV/AIDS, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, in 2010, in the United States, “for all races combined in the age group 15-24 years, HIV disease moved from the 12th leading cause of death in 2009 to the 11th leading cause of death in 2010.” It is the “7th leading cause of death in 2010 for the age group 25-44 years.”
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