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AIDS @ 30: Playboy Playmate Rebecca Armstrong

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Like many others, former Playboy Playmate Rebekka Armstrong thought that HIV could not affect her. When she became ill at age 22, she found out she was wrong.

In an interview with Jewell Cardwell in the Akron Beacon Journal from Nov. 29, 2009, she said, "Everyone needs to know that AIDS is not just a problem in the gay community. It only takes one time; one of having unprotected sex, to change your life forever."

After being the centerfold in Playboy in September 1986, Armstrong became a public figure with a $100,000 annual income. Armstrong contracted the virus as a teenager during unprotected sex; she found in 1989 that she was positive for HIV. She started drinking and using drugs heavily because she thought she had limited time on this earth and she wanted to 'go out with a bang'. Her immune system was failing and she had bouts of pneumonia and meningitis as well as bladder, kidney and brain infections as a result of the disease.

After taking all of the pharmaceuticals she had in her possession with tequila, she drove her car into a brick wall and then to a parking lot where she called a friend who found her unconscious. At the hospital they pumped her stomach and after 36 hours in a coma, she awoke with a new purpose. In an article in People magazine from 1997, Armstrong said, "It took me hitting rock bottom to decide, 'Well, I've got to do something.'"

She started to fight her illness by being as healthy as she could and by taking aggressive drug therapy. She also started to campaign to warn teenagers about the risks of HIV and how they are also vulnerable. She started investing a lot of time in herself and her own health. She started taking the medications that were prescribed for her illness every day. She stopped living a wild lifestyle; she quit drinking, smoking and doing drugs. She wanted to be as healthy as she could be during her remaining years.

Armstrong is working now as a competitive bodybuilder and a fitness model while continuing to try to save the lives of teenagers across the country. She has spoken at high school and colleges around the country. Her mission is to inform girls that their belief that a disease like HIV cannot affect them is false and that they are indeed at risk and should take precaution.

Armstrong is still alive and living a healthy lifestyle. In the interview with People magazine, she said, "Sure, there are things I wish I hadn't done, but why waste time saying, 'Oh, God, if only I had done it this way?' It's better for me to just make my future better than my past."

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