Though December 1 is set aside to celebrate medical breakthroughs and to honor those living with the HIV infection, World AIDS Day comes only once a year. Fortunately, the efforts of activists like Hydeia Broadbent never end. Introduced globally at the 1996 Republican National Convention when she was just 12 years old, she announced in a speech that made headlines: “I am the future, and I have AIDS.”
Now 27 years old, Broadbent contracted the disease in utero and has been working tirelessly to educate others on the infection’s impacts and prevention. The work is hard, especially as every nine-and-a-half minutes another person is infected with HIV, and almost 50% of new cases in the U.S. being African American. Though she describes herself as old-fashioned and newly single (“It’s hard to date, what with being a woman and having standards,” she says) and a person who hasn’t ventured into the growing world of online dating sites for HIV-positive people, she does hold a number of very modern views that we could all learn from. Here Broadbent discusses with Loop 21 what we still need to know when dating in the days of HIV and AIDS.
Loop 21: What do you think has improved in terms of people’s understanding of and attitudes towards HIV and AIDS?
Hydeia Broadbent: I believe the younger generation tends to be de-sensitized, because they don’t really know how huge an issue HIV/AIDS was in the 80s.
My 19-year-old sister [who is positive] has no problem dating guys her age. They are so open and not afraid, not like the guys my age who remember growing up afraid of getting AIDS. While that’s good for my sister’s generation, it’s kind of scary because there isn’t a sense of fear. I think my generation let them down because we forgot to inform and show them the true reality of AIDS.
Loop 21: If you’re HIV-positive, when do you disclose your status? On the date? Before a date? As soon as you meet? As soon as you’re interested?
Broadbent: I have a three-date rule. By the third date is when it’s time to let someone know—but a lot of people don’t start dating until after they have already had sex. You need to let your partner know before you take it that far.
If the person rejects you, then look at the bright side—at least you find out sooner then later what type of person they really were.