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.

The HIV Risks

How does one get HIV?

HIV is primarily found in the blood, semen, breast milk or vaginal fluid of an infected person. HIV is transmitted through these bodily fluids in 3 main ways:

1. Having sex without a condom with someone infected with HIV.
2. Sharing needles and syringes with someone infected with HIV.
3. As a fetus or infant, being exposed to HIV before or during birth or through breastfeeding.

HIV is a fragile virus and cannot live for very long outside the body. Thus, the virus is not transmitted through day-to-day activities such as shaking hands, hugging, or casual kissing. You cannot become infected from a toilet seat, drinking fountain, doorknob, dishes, drinking glasses, food, or pets. You also cannot get HIV from mosquitoes. These are all just crazy myths.

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.

How can I avoid getting HIV from sex?

To avoid contracting HIV sexually, this should be your mantra: A, B and C.

A is for Abstinence. Abstain from sex. HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases are nothing without the “sexually” part of it.

B stands for Be Faithful. Sex when in a monogamous relationship, where each is only having sex with the other, is the safest sex there is. Of course the premise would be that you both are HIV-negative, or that at least you are aware of each other’s HIV status and take all the necessary precautions.

C is for Condoms. If A and B are too difficult, opt to use condoms to reduce the risks. When used correctly, they provide an effective barrier to bodily fluids that may carry HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Even couples wherein both parties are HIV-positive are advised to use condoms to prevent other STDs and possible infection with a different strain of HIV.

So remember your ABCs.

How else can I keep safe?

Avoid drugs and alcohol. Being drunk or high - when having sex or otherwise - may cloud your mind, increasing the chances of you doing something risky. Sharing needles when doing drugs exposes you to the risk directly. The same goes for needles used in piercing or tattooing.

And when it comes to sex, there’s more to safe sex than just condoms. Masturbation, licking, fantasizing, kissing, massaging, hugging or talking can make it both safe and spicy in bed.