On Tuesday, November 9th, former HIV activist and former Playboy Playmate visited UW-Parkside to discuss what it’s like living with HIV. The presentation began with a 12 minute video clip of a look into what Rebekka Armstrong’s life had been like before and after being diagnosed with the virus. Just outside the Cinema, where the presentation took place, was a table filled with helpful information about HIV/AIDS.
In 1986, Rebekka Lynn Armstrong was named Playmate Miss September and her life completely changed. It became an exciting part where she’d travel and meet new people. She soon began to get more and more tired and after having several tests done, and one for HIV as an afterthought, she proved positive for HIV.
Armstrong kept the virus a secret as it began to destroy her body. After years of pain and humiliation, she decided to fight against the very thing harming her and became public with her virus in 1994. With the help and support of Hugh Hefner and the Playboy Foundation, Armstrong began her College Campus Safer Sex Tour. She tours all over the world to provide education about the dangers of HIV/AIDS and fights to find better treatments for the virus.
Over the course of her life, Armstrong suffered from dangerous drug toxicity from being used as one of the many guinea pigs for AIDS treatments, brain and intestinal infections, a suicide attempt, and time spent in a psych ward for said suicide attempt. Unsure of the full extent of HIV, Armstrong decided to try and go out with a bang by having as much fun as possible and partying through life. But that came to a stop once the pain began to set in.
After an episode of convulsions, Armstrong went to New England and started using cocktails to help battle the HIV virus. Cocktails are a mixture of drugs used to combat HIV. She then became violently ill and developed a heavy case of diarrhea, but this was because of the Viracept in her cocktail. Armstrong used another cocktail and became sick again. But this time her body lost fluids and her hair began to fall out.
Armstrong finally began using her current cocktail and, other than some mild headaches, her symptoms improved, but did not disappear. HIV is a virus for which there is no cure, and yet that doesn’t stop Armstrong. She travels the world attempting to inform the youths of the dangers of HIV. She claims that her problem that would lead her contracting the virus was a number of self-esteem and a foolish act on a beach.
Rebekka Armstrong often body-builds to help herself with her addiction, competes in challenges and has even won before. She still works as a Playboy Playmate and works to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS. Discovery Health has even made a documentary on her.
The event on Tuesday was sponsored by Peer Health Educators, PAB, Rainbow Alliance, Student Center, LGBTQ Resource Center, Women’s Center, Student Org Council, and the SAC.
Article by Reshad Burchfield