When Magic Johnson announced to the world that he was infected with HIV in November of 1991, he instantly became the face of the virus.
But not too long after he made his announcement, the world focused its eyes on another face: a sweet, 7-year-old girl who had a hard time dealing with her HIV-positive status.
During a taping of a Nickelodeon AIDS Special that focused on informing youth that the virus can affect anyone, Hydeia Broadbent sat bravely near Johnson among a group of younger children sharing how hard it was for her to deal with negative perceptions of the virus and the teasing she experienced over it. But then she broke down and, fighting through her tears, told him, “I want people to know that we’re just normal people.”
He put his massive hand on her tiny shoulder and told her, “Aww, you don’t have to cry. Because we are normal people. OK? We are.”
Now, some 20 years later, Hydeia and Magic continue to be very powerful voices for people living with HIV, CNN reports. Magic became infected because he had unprotected sex. And Hydeia became a victim of the virus through her drug-using mother. Both reunited back in March during a Los Angeles screening of “The Announcement,” a documentary about the NBA legend coming forward about his HIV status. Hydeia’s tearful moment during the Nickelodeon special was replayed during the documentary.
WATCH Magic And Hydeia Talk About HIV 20 Years Ago (Timed at 8:22 in clip)
Magic recalls their first meeting some 20 years ago as a moment that further focused his commitment to HIV/AIDS awareness :
“Hydeia means the world to me,” Johnson said. “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.”
Hydeia, now 27, continues to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. In addition to delivering lectures at universities and giving speeches at conferences, she says she is very straightforward when informing young people about how difficult it is to be HIV-positive. Hydeia says she is particularly troubled with today’s younger generation who she feels under-estimates the realities of being HIV-positive.
“I try to tell it as real as I can, that this isn’t a disease they want,” she said. “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.
“They really don’t know that you can die.”
Today, African-Americans are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Blacks account for just 14 percent of the U.S. population, but accounted for 44 percent of new HIV infections in 2009. Gay Black men are especially affected. Between 2006-2009, gay men accounted for more than 48 percent of new HIV infections. In 2009, 30 percent of Black women accounted for HIV infections among all Blacks. More than 85 percent of Black women acquired HIV through heterosexual sex.
While those living with HIV/AIDS no longer have to endure the same level of ignorance now as Magic and Hydeia had to deal with more than 20 years ago, numbers provided by the CDC clearly reveal that our community has work even harder to educate each other about HIV.
Hopefully, 20 years from now, neither Blacks nor any any other race of people will have to deal with the ugliness of this horrible virus that brought then seven-year-old Hydeia to tears.