Tennessee: Former Playboy Playmate With HIV Makes Positive Impact
September 27, 2005
Recently, former Playboy Playmate Rebekka Armstrong took the stage at the University of Tennessee's Carolyn P. Brown Memorial University Center Auditorium. Sponsored by the university's Women's Coordinating Council, Armstrong titled her appearance "Exposed: An HIV+ Playmate Talks About Her Life."
The 38-year-old Armstrong told the audience that she was diagnosed with HIV at age 22, not from leading a wild life in Hollywood during her years as a Playmate, but from "sex I didn't want to have in the first place" with a high-school boyfriend. "It only takes one time," she said. The encounter left her pregnant, and she underwent an abortion.
"I had low self-esteem. I wanted to feel special and pretty," Armstrong continued. "I wanted to be loved, cared for and wanted." The desire for someone else "to validate me" is what Armstrong said brought her the phone call she never expected.
"When my doctor told me I was positive, I thought she was saying that I was pregnant," Armstrong noted. "It took awhile for it to sink in that I was HIV-positive."
Later, Armstrong attempted suicide because she thought the AIDS medicines were failing and "only made me sicker." After doing drugs and drinking, she borrowed a car and crashed it into a wall. Armstrong said she spent 36 hours in a coma, the whole time wishing "they [hospital staff] would just let me die."
After attending a two-day conference for women affected by HIV, Armstrong finally found the hope and will not only to live but to make a difference by sharing her experience with others.
09.22.05; Chandra Harris
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.