Florida: Former Model Tells Eckerd Students About Life With HIV
April 13, 2004
At the peak of a modeling career that included being Playboy's Miss September 1986, Rebekka Armstrong, then 22, was told she was HIV-positive. She figured she had two years to live. "I started making a list of everything I wanted to do, and then I started medication, and it made me really sick," said Armstrong, 37, in St. Petersburg recently to speak to Eckerd College students on "Living with HIV." "Then I got angry, and I didn't want to live that way, being sick all the time."
Since going public about her disease in 1994, Armstrong has traveled throughout the United States educating young people about the importance of safe sex. She said she began having sex at age 16 -- without condoms, believing birth control pills were enough. Armstrong showed the Eckerd students a documentary that a student made about her two years ago showing her decline from glamour. "I do not remember what it feels like to feel good," she said in the video. "I don't have a future. It's not easy... you know, trying to live."
Some of the students who attended Armstrong's speech said they appreciated Armstrong's sense of humor in the face of a terminal disease. "She got a good crowd, she kept the jokes going, I think they're going to get the message now, that AIDS has no barriers. It's a disease that affects everybody," said junior Tonya Womack.
Though her HIV infection has progressed to AIDS, Armstrong said she continues to live life. She is still a spokesperson for Playboy and does some fitness modeling. She is also writing a book and plans to continue spending her time teaching AIDS prevention to young people.
St. Petersburg Times
04.08.04; Megan Scott
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.