Thursday, June 3, 2010
Rebekka Lynn Armstrong grew up in a small California desert town three hours north of Los Angeles. As a young girl she preferred racing motorcycles to dressing dolls and was shelving an impressive collection of trophies by the age of fourteen. Traveling to motocross competitions across the country, Rebekka didn't realize that she was blossoming into a stunning young woman who would soon grace the pages of numerous magazines.
At the age of eighteen, Rebekka aspired to be a Playboy Playmate like the women she had seen in magazines that she had found under her grandfather's bed. A family friend passed her pictures to Hugh Hefner and, against all odds, Rebekka was chosen from thousands of beautiful women to become a Playboy centerfold. Playmate Miss September, 1986, was suddenly in demand in the star-studded world of Hollywood as movie, commercial and modeling offers poured in. Rebekka's sunny disposition and enthusiastic spirit brought her all that could be desired.
"I led an exciting life as a Playmate," says Rebekka. "Traveling, meeting tons of people, parties, etc." But as time passed, Rebekka began to suspect that something was wrong. She became easily fatigued and was plagued with a feeling of malaise. She went to her doctor for tests and, as an afterthought, asked to be tested for HIV. She then left for a modeling assignment in Mexico.
Among the messages waiting for Rebekka when she returned home were calls from her doctor. Her HIV test was positive.
If you have just tested positive for HIV check out Wynn Wagner's article titled "HIV: Day One" at AEGIS (AIDS Education Global Information System)
At that time, while the deadly virus physically took it's toll, the stigma in the industry was also a killer. Rebekka kept her infection secret as its affects began to ravage her body and life. Surprisingly, she had not been infected living under the lights of Hollywood, but rather years earlier as a teenage girl having unprotected sex with a young man she met during a summer beach vacation. "Unfortunately, an uneducated act of having unprotected sex will affect the rest of my life", states Rebekka.
After years of hiding the affects of the virus and self-destructive results of keeping such a horrible secret, Rebekka decided to go public with her disease. In a 1994 cover story for The Advocate Magazine, Rebekka made international headlines when she announced that she was HIV positive. HIV (formerly known as GRID or the Gay-Related Immunodefiency Disease) was thought to be predominantly a "gay men's" disease.
No longer willing to hide in the shadow of HIV/AIDS, Rebekka dedicated herself to preventing others from making the mistakes of unsafe sex and drug use.
Hugh Hefner and the Playboy Foundation arranged for the availability of grants as Rebekka began the College Campus Safer Sex tour. She became a spokesperson for Cable Positive™ and the popular POZ™ Life Expos, which have been taking place in cities across the country since 1994. "I am thrilled to be a part of these events and to have the opportunity to speak to a large number of people," said Rebekka. "While AIDS is such a frightening topic that scares people off, it is events like these that succeed in getting people involved, educated and united in fighting this horrible disease."
As an outspoken activist, Rebekka has not only fought for HIV/AIDS awareness, but also to increase the funding for progress in discovering improved treatments. She continues to tour the United States and abroad to provide education about the reality of HIV/AIDS and how to prevent it.
Discovery Health Channel produced a profile of Rebekka called "Beating the Odds" that aired in September, 2000, and received an overwhelming response. E! True Hollywood Stories also documented Rebekka's incredible strength and perseverance, again with extraordinary reaction. Rebekka took her message to the United Kingdom in 2001 on a tour that began a film documentary about her remarkable life. Antonia Bird, director of such films as "Safe," "The Priest", "Face", "Mad Love" and "Ravenous" is directing.
Rebekka remains a working Playboy Playmate representing the organization in it's many events and is currently writing two books: an autobiography and a cookbook with many of her wonderful recipes along with health and workout tips. Although infected with HIV and diagnosed with AIDS for more than 20 years, Rebekka is in excellent health today. Medications and a super healthy lifestyle have helped her maintain a normal T-Cell count and undetectable viral load.
Rebekka currently resides in Los Angeles with several previously homeless animals.