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Former Playboy Playmate talks HIV/AIDS, safe sex


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By Kirsten Clark





“Guys don’t always want to use condoms, and they make up excuses,” she said. “Girls on occasion have been known to say, ‘Oh, you don’t need to use a condom.’”

She then listed common excuses for not wearing one.

“I’m too big for a condom, baby,” she joked, holding up her arm. “Brother, are you bigger than this?”

Students gathered in the Indiana Memorial Union’s Frangipani Room on Tuesday night to listen to Armstrong, an HIV/AIDS awareness activist, speak about her experience living with HIV/AIDS.

Armstrong said she contracted the virus from unprotected sex at 16. Now, she not only speaks about HIV/AIDS but is a safer-sex educator.

“Condoms get a bad rap,” she said. “But one of these could’ve saved my life.”

Union Board sponsored the lecture. Hillary Anderson, Union Board lectures director, said she had hoped students who wouldn’t normally attend the talk would be drawn to the Playboy label and come away with a valuable lesson.

“We wanted to bring her because we felt like the topic of HIV and sexual health awareness was a message a lot of students needed to hear,” Anderson said.
Armstrong also talked about how self-esteem and personal boundaries can create healthier relationships.

“I wanted you to like me. I wanted you to think I was cool,” Armstrong said. “I wanted to fit in, and that put me in situations where I didn’t create healthy boundaries.”

Armstrong also discussed the medication she takes and associated myths, such as that there is a cure for HIV/AIDS. There isn’t a cure, she said, only medications to slow progression and ease side effects.

“People ask me, ‘Can’t I just take those meds that Magic Johnson takes?’” she said.
Armstrong became a Playboy Playmate soon after turning 18 after a family friend passed her picture along to Hugh Hefner. She tested positive in 1989 at age 22.

In the first stages of her illness, she was prescribed azidothymidin, also known as AZT, the only drug available at the time for patients with HIV/AIDS, to fight progression of the virus. She was taking a total of 18 AZT pills a day.

Armstrong recalled the violent side effects of the medication, which ranged from open sores covering her body to fiery, nail-like sensations in her hands and feet to hair loss and extreme nausea.

“‘Can I just take those meds that Magic Johnson takes?’ Absolutely,” she said. “But I suggest you rethink what you do today so you don’t have to go down that path.”

In 1994, Armstrong went public with her HIV diagnosis. She now speaks at schools, as well as women’s HIV-positive support groups and youth groups.

She said saving lives, prevention and awareness influenced her choice to travel and speak about her experiences.

“Because of the medications, there’s complacency,” she said. “Young people are having unprotected sex more, I think, because they’re not hearing about the death and the really horrific side of HIV.”

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