Former Playboy Bunny shares life battle

Heather Mangan

Heather Mangan

Rebekkah Armstrong’s body has given her a career and years full of pain and anguish.

Armstrong, a former Playboy Bunny, is currently infected with AIDS. She came to SDSU April 21 to talk to students about her struggle with the virus.

She was very pleased to talk to SDSU students.

“We had an amazing turnout,” she said.

About 150 students listened to Armstrong speak about sex and AIDS. She told them of ways it can be spread and ways it can be prevented.

“I think I’m the best person to talk about sex because I’ve been exposed, literally, to a lot of different lifestyles,” she said.

Armstrong had unprotected sex with a stranger after having too much to drink. She was infected with HIV at the age of 16.

But, she didn’t realize it until later.

Two years later she began to model for Playboy. Armstrong even became Ms. September 1986. She really enjoyed her career.

“Hundreds to sometimes thousands of men lined up to get my autograph,” she said in a video about herself that she played during the presentation.

However, it all changed in 1989 when she tested positive for HIV.

“When [the doctor] told me I was HIV positive, I lost it,” she also said in the video.

“All I knew about HIV was death. I knew I was going to die.”

After her diagnosis, she went on a five-year roller coaster. She had good times when she ate well, exercised and took her medication, which usually made her very sick.

She also had her bad times when she wouldn’t sleep for days and abused alcohol and drugs.

“Anything to take that yuckiness away, that is what I wanted,” she said.

During those five years, her body severely weakened.

She was so sick that she was down to 98 pounds. She suffered from two brain infections, intestine infections and a pancreas rupture.

She eventually became suicidal. She took hundreds of pills and washed them down with Tequila. She then got into her car and drove into a brick wall.

“I was begging [the paramedics] to let me die,” she explained in the video.

After her attempt, she spent a couple of weeks at the hospital and then in a psychiatric ward.

When she was released, she decided to do something about her illness.

She attended a two-day women’s retreat. The people at the retreat helped her to turn her life around.

She has traveled the world talking to students at all levels about HIV and AIDS.

She wants teens to be informed about this serious illness.

“I want to make a difference,” she said. “I want to prevent kids from getting this.”

In addition to speaking about AIDS, Armstrong works as a personal trainer and a body builder.

She has learned to love life and to keep striving for the future.

“I’m going to be around for [the future],” she said. “I’m going down fighting.”

Although she no longer works for Playboy, she is still a spokesperson for the enterprise.

Armstrong admitted that she uses her former career as a way to draw students into her lecture.

However, they leave informed, she said.

Students provided positive feedback from the lecture.

“I thought it was awesome because a lot of people infected with the virus wouldn’t have the strength to stand up in from of people and talk about it,” sophomore Nicole Doran said.

To learn more about Armstrong, visit