Yes, I'm gay. I probably was since the day I was born. On my 21st birthday, I sort of had my debut. I came out to my parents. A little drama from mom, and some indifference from dad. An above-average coming out. Almost perfect.

Nine years later, two weeks before my 30th birthday, I found out... I'M HIV POSITIVE.

And so my story begins... I'm BACK IN THE CLOSET.

Monday, May 18, 2009


OnginaFollowing in the footsteps of Fergie, Pam Anderson, and Linda Evangelista, a Los Angeles–based drag queen named Ongina has become the latest spokesperson for the M•A•C Viva Glam campaign, raising more than $140 million by donating 100% of the sale of M•A•C’s Viva Glam products to fight HIV/AIDS.

As is, the support for the fight against HIV is amazing enough. But what’s even more amazing?

Also known as Ryan Ong Palao in real life, Ongina is a 27-year-old proudly born in no less than... the Philippines. Claiming to be a woman trapped in a drag queen’s body, he used his middle name, Ong, and because God didn’t bless him with a certain kind of ’ina, to come up with his drag persona, Ongina. He says his first drag name was Peck-Peck Galore.

Ongina first made waves as a fan favorite on TV reality competition RuPaul’s Drag Race, in which female impersonators battle it out to become America’s next top drag queen. M•A•C Cosmetics was a major sponsor of the show, which is hosted by the original M•A•C Viva Glam spokesmodel and drag superstar, RuPaul.

In an episode that aired in February, Ongina bested the five remaining contestants to win the M•A•C Viva Glam Spokesperson for the Day Challenge, in which the queens starred in screen tests to promote the campaign. More significantly, M•A•C established its AIDS Fund in 1994 to support those affected by HIV/AIDS globally.

And as if simply winning the challenge wasn’t enough, when Ongina won, he broke down in tears on the runway and shocked the judges, his competitors, and the viewing audience with a revelation... he was HIV-positive. O... M... G...

Considering he hadn’t told his HIV-positive status to his parents yet at the time of the challenge, he was able to disclose it to them just weeks before the episode aired. Prior to that, it was his friends that were his support system in dealing with his early issues with HIV.

Diagnosed in April of 2006, he had already been living with HIV for a good two years before debuting on Drag Race. Initially, he had no plans of disclosing his HIV status, not wanting that aspect to be part of the story. But upon winning, he was overcome by emotions, knowing that he had won something that he could represent, and that had helped him and other people stay alive despite HIV. Any funding for HIV helped humanity one way or another, but this was particularly meaningful because he had HIV.

Ongina recalled growing up in the Philippines as Ryan, where he was as educated about drag queens about as well as he was about HIV – that was not at all. But what lack in AIDS awareness growing up in the Philippines had more than been made up for when he moved to the United States at the age of 12, where sex-education classes were offered every academic year from the sixth grade forward. But still, he caught it after an incident of unprotected sex with a stranger.

Recalling the challenge of his disclosure, “I can barely tell my mom when I’m dating. And now I have to tell her I’m living with HIV?” In the weeks before the episode aired, Palao returned to Washington to have the conversation he avoided for nearly three years. When it was finally over, he says, “I am happy I have come out of the HIV closet, because now I can live life without hiding anything. This is me: full, raw Ryan. You can take it or leave it. You either like it or you don’t, but this is exactly what you’ll get.”

With the celebrity status gained as Ongina on Drag Race, Ryan Palao says he is more than happy to act as a spokesperson for HIVers whenever possible. He shares with others the message he presented during the show’s M•A•C Viva Glam Challenge: “Celebrate life!”

“That’s how I live my life. I don’t live any way other than what I know, and that’s to live life to the fullest every day when I wake up. Even before I decided to disclose my status, I wanted to show people that, no matter what happens, life is a celebration!”

Inspiring, ‘no?

Read and see more of Ongina in his official website,, as well as in articles in The Advocate and in HIV Plus Mag.


Anonymous said...

Gudday. My query is kinda personal but I'm just curious how a person get infected with HIV/AIDS. Do you get infected by simbly being sucked and vise-versa?

PinoyPoz said...

Oral sex does pose some risks. Grabbing from

"Open-mouth kissing, oral sex and ‘rimming’ (oral-anal contact) are potential risks because of the possibility of contact with blood if/when there are cuts or sores in the mouth. However, the risk of acquiring HIV through these is believed to be very low. Rimming, though, may also lead one to contracting hepatitis, gonorrhea or other sexually transmitted diseases.

Bleeding gums or cuts can increase the risk of infection. So don't brush your teeth prior to oral sex; and if you do, be gentle so as not to scratch your gums with the brush. Better yet, brush before a date, not before getting in bed."