Ending the HIV+ Stigma: Speaker to Share Story at ‘Breaking the Silence’

Hydeia Broadbent. Courtesy Facebook.

Hydeia Broadbent was born with HIV but wasn’t diagnosed until age 3 and wasn’t expected to live past age 5. Today she’s 39 and sharing her inspirational story.

Born and diagnosed in the mid-‘80s, there was little hope for baby Broadbent, or patients of any age, as America and the world was still trying to understand the basics, much less the nuances of the disease. Broadbent beat the odds and is a long-term survivor.

She is the main speaker at “Breaking the Silence: A Conversation on Overcoming HIV Stigma” on Thursday, July 20, at 7 p.m. The event will be at the West Palm Beach Lake Pavilion at 101 S. Flagler Drive.

For her, it turned out that the toughest fight would be against the stigma surrounding the status of being HIV+.

“I went through a period where I stopped taking my medication, I didn’t want to take my meds,” Broadbent said.

Even after effective drugs became available and eventually refined to the pills or injections we have today, there was a period when she was losing hope. A dark cloud of stigma still hangs over the term HIV+ and it can take a toll your mental health.

“You’re not just dealing with HIV/AIDS,” she said. “We have to address a person’s mental state. If I don’t feel good and I’m not happy, and don’t want to get out of bed, I’m not gonna take these pills to save my life.”

South Florida remains a hotspot for new infections. Complacency is partly to blame, as a new generation sees HIV as easily treatable. But in some communities, it’s still taboo. Broadbent is a Black woman and has seen it firsthand.

“I see, especially in the African American community, we don’t like to talk about mental health. We don’t want to be labeled as ‘crazy.’”

Breaking the silence is something Broadbent does every day, and not just for herself but for others.

“I’m very open and honest now. Yes, I go to therapy. Yes, I take medicine. Yes, I’m dealing with these issues. I don’t want to be hindered and stuck in one place. I want to do better.”


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