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HIV+ Dating Sites Offer an Alternative

by Ambrose Aban
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Jun 27, 2008

"Poz-only" dating sites have finally arrived online. Their owners are hoping they help people infected with HIV meet others without the fear and exclusion they might encounter on other gay dating sites. Even more, they hope to foster a sense of belonging within a larger HIV-positive community.

The focus is one of being out and proud as an HIV-positive gay man--and away from the stigma of HIV. The sites also give the men a forum to talk about it. The hope is that, when the secrecy and shame of it is removed, HIV will lose some of its power over their lives.

The sites include BeOneCity, launched recently in Los Angeles, PositiveSingles, PozitiveLiving, PozMatch.com, PositivePersonals--all personals web sites for HIV+ people.

Angelenos Peter Brook and David Purdue created BeOneCity. Brooks says his site fills the void he found online when he seroconverted not so long ago. "We intend to expand our online services to provide a global HIV positive 'sister' site within a year that will serve the heterosexual positive community," Brook says.

BeOneCity isn't your typical dating or meet-up site. For one thing, it offers relevant news. It also aims to be a forum for pozzers. But like the others, it is above all a relationship site catering to those living with the virus.

"We bridge the gap between the myriad non-profit and for-profit HIV organizations, all working against HIV," Brook says. "We put a lot of effort into supporting other groups and partnering with them. This offers us a real-world focus for us and for our members, and gives us a community experience in the real world--something often neglected from our life with HIV."

Why Self-Serosort?
The policy among many gay men remains "don't ask, don't tell" on dating sites. General gay sites like Manhunt also currently offers serosorting for its members as well. "We know being able to serosort is valuable to many of our HIV-positive members," Manhunt's new chief marketing officer told EDGE.

Robert Brandon Sandor founded Poz4Poz, a series of parties for pozzers a decade ago and the new HIV-UB2.Net (www.hiv-ub2.net). He has been a strong advocate for serosorting among gay men.

"Years ago, those who tested HIV-positive had few places to turn for support," he says. "Fortunately, much has changed. We know more about HIV now. No one is going to be infected with HIV if they have sex with partners who are sharing the same serostatus."

Many organizations and HIV experts have not embraced serosorting. Although serosorting is entirely based on the foundation of trust, it is still a good way to reduce (if not stop) the spread of HIV to negative men, Sandor argues.

The men who have developed these sites say they are driven by a strong social mission. They believe that their sites can be unifying places where they can mobilize together to help stop HIV. Part of the reason for such sites now is the movement away from HIV from an eventual death sentence to a far more manageable condition.

This is true for straight men living with HIV as well as gay men. Donald Johnson, who founded PositiveLiving.com in 1997 in Austin, Texas, shortly after he was diagnosed with HIV, created his site at a time when there was no way to meet other pozzers.

Like other most online dating sites, Johnson's site lets users post statistics from height to education, as well a paragraph describing what they are looking for in a relationship. The site also includes advertisements from people looking for roommates or potential friends. If two people decide they want to meet, it is up to them to exchange phone numbers and addresses through e-mail. So far, the free Web service averages 100,000 unique visitors per month, many of them international users.

For Johnson, the success of the site is especially sweet because he met his new wife after she posted a personal ad.

A Safe Space
Chad Morrett, who created and runs PositivePersonals out of Seattle, said the Internet provides a safe, secure place to meet others living with a disease that can be difficult to discuss in person. "When I was diagnosed, I didn't know anyone else who was HIV-positive,'' Morrett told a Florida newspaper, recently. "It was a little frightening.''

AIDS advocates say many people prefer to use online dating services because they provide a sense of control. Also, those on other dating sites might be scared off by the disease--or tell others, says Terje Anderson, director of the National Association of People With AIDS.

"If you do tell someone you're HIV-positive and do it face to face in a small town, you don't know what that person will do with the information," adds Anderson. On these sites, they can put their HIV status out there with an ad, but still be anonymous.

PositivesDating, founded by best friends, Brandon Koechlin and Paul Graves, both 24, in Columbus, Ohio, in 2005, offers free and paid memberships. Visitors can log in to the site's chat rooms and search through thousands of available member profiles. Paid memberships allow users to keep in contact via e-mail and see who's been viewing their profiles.

The founders told Entrepreneur, that during the first four months, PositivesDating operated as a free site to build membership. They also sent out informational postcards to support groups all over the country, such as AIDS Project Los Angeles. PositivesDating has close to 2,500 paid members. Monthly memberships start around $14 a month.

As on dating sites like eHarmony, users can take a personality profile survey, after which they receive an analysis of their personality type and what kind of partner would best suit them. They also receive a list of possible member matches based on their characteristics and personality.

These sites tell you that testing positive is not the end of your life or the end of your chances at love. They certainly tell you that it is not the end of your great sex life. The sites are saying that testing positive is, while a tough thing to hear and a tough challenge to overcome, also offers a new beginning.

Next: Education Part of Goal



Comments

  • , 2009-01-04 18:03:06

    How widespread is the phenomenon?... and are the rates of new infections zero or nearly zero for sex partners taking part in the phenomenon?... of the strategy of "Let’s get tested TOGETHER BEFORE we have sex, for A VARIETY of STDs." Sexual health checkups reduce ambiguity/risks and can be like anything else POTENTIAL sex partners do together.


  • chloe1023, 2010-05-17 12:20:53

    HIV is not something people can nor should go through alone. People are the key to win this fight. So I would like to invite you to join my friends’ cycle Pozspaces.com Once you complete your profile you can view thusands of profiles, read tons of blogs everyday. Also you can chat, creat blog, join the discuss,etc. Please follow the fllowing link to join my friends cycle http://www.Pozspaces.com/guest?tid=Pozspaces


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