Former Playboy Playmate Rebekka Armstrong to speak out on AIDS at Kent State

What Armstrong neglects to mention is that HIV also turned her into a guy.

from – There was a time when Rebekka Armstrong didn’t have a care in the world.

That was before she discovered she had contracted HIV as a teenager as a result of unprotected sex.

It was then that Armstrong’s world came crashing down.

There came a point that she even tried to end her life.

But these days, she has a healthy outlook on life. She’s working to save other lives, especially teens and college-age females who believe contracting HIV can’t happen to them.

To that end, the one-time Playboy playmate and centerfold will be speaking at Kent State University’s Stark campus on Tuesday as part of the World AIDS Day program.

”It only takes one time — one of having unprotected sex — to change your life forever,” the now 42-year-old said in an telephone interview from her California home.

Her message now is, ”Do as I say, not as I’ve done.”

Armstrong said she naively thought being on a birth control pill was protection enough. It wasn’t.

In addition to presenting a body-building workshop at 2 p.m., Armstrong will be the guest speaker at 6:30 p.m. in the Main Hall auditorium.

The Jackson Township campus also will offer free and private HIV testing through the Alliance City Health Department. The testing will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday in the library.

”My mission, if you will, is to talk to as many young people as I can. To let them know the realities of HIV and AIDS,” Armstrong said.

Everyone needs to know that AIDS is not just a problem in the gay community, she said.

”To the best of my knowledge, I was probably infected right around when I was 17 or 18. The reason I say ‘to the best of my knowledge’ is that I have yet to speak to him directly. . . . I know it wasn’t from IV drugs or from a blood transfusion. I know who it was.

”I don’t know if he’s still alive. . . . I was 22 when I found out.”

The first symptoms were feeling ”really, really” run down, she said.

Armstrong asked her doctors for a complete physical. The testing included, among other things, blood work and a pregnancy test.

”I even took an HIV test. I did it knowing that a disease like that wouldn’t affect me as a young woman. But I took it anyway,” she said.

The results were positive. Three different times.

”I was on pins and needles waiting for the results each time,” she said.

After she picked herself up off the floor, Armstrong said, she sought the help of a specialist.

”I was scared to death.”

Armstrong said she had to seek out former boyfriends to urge them to be tested. Their results were negative.

”The next thing that happened was that I went on a pretty abusive roller-coaster ride, fueled with drugs and alcohol,” she said.

The only drug available at that time to treat HIV made her violently ill.

”Since I thought I only had a limited amount of time on this Earth, I made a list of things to do before I checked out. It was ‘Let’s party and get crazy.’

”It was a five-year roller-coaster ride.”

Other illnesses ensued and as she beat each one, she became more determined to turn her life around.

She watched as others with the disease died.

Armstrong invested in herself, taking the medications that were prescribed ”every, single day, not drinking, doing drugs or smoking, and staying as healthy as I could be.”

She credits her lifestyle changes and the advances in HIV drugs with making the difference.

Today, a remarkably healthy Rebekka Armstrong — although she does have AIDS — is busy trying to save lives.

She works as a personal trainer, is writing a book and is a competitive bodybuilder.

”The main thing I need the world to know is that I have accepted myself,” she said.

”I became infected because I made the decision to have unprotected sex with someone. I was responsible for me.

”It only takes one time to change the way you look at life and your future. One time to put yourself at risk, to completely change your life.

”It’s just not worth it. Protect yourself! Love yourself!”

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