Social Media For HIV Patients


The most difficult thing about Herpes and HIV is that it carries a social stigma, says dating website UK Positive Singles. When it comes to dating, you may have fewer choices because of your condition.

Also, if you are dating with other singles without an STI, you are most likely to be rejected by them after telling the truth.

UK Positive Singles has 30,000 members in the UK, accumulating 100,000 new members last year worldwide – and DatePositive, which has more than 6,000 profiles, allow users to search for people with almost any sexually transmitted infection.

Other websites such as H-YPE or H-Date, are aimed specifically at people with the most common types of incurable STIs, such as herpes and HPV, which causes genital warts.

“If you have just been told you have herpes or HPV and you feel like your life is over, well, we are here to prove to you that it’s not. In fact, it’s a whole new start,” it says on H-YPE.

Once logged on to the websites, users enter age and sexual preference. Then they can search for people with a specific sexually transmitted infection.

The rise in these dating sites coincides with increasing rates of STIs. In the UK there was a two per cent rise in new cases from 2010-2011, according to the Health Protection Agency’s latest statistics. More than 100,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with genital herpes or HPV every year.

Meanwhile, there are about 20 million new STI cases each year in the US, and about 110 million in total, says the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“[Some people] feel like freaks, like lepers,” Max, 44, who set up dating site H-YPE., told BBC News.

Kate, 36, from Manchester, who has herpes, thinks the stigma attached to STIs also means ‘people assume you’ve slept around’.

In reality, many people contract STIs from long-term partners – and some people only discover they’ve contracted an infection at the same time they find out their partner has been unfaithful.

Kate recalls how a promising relationship was ruined by the disclosure of her herpes. ‘It came up in conversation and I was petrified. It broke us. He didn’t want to take any chances.’

On most of these dating websites, users can write honestly about their feelings and no longer have to be secretive about their condition.

There’s also a sense of community and support, and often there’s online counsellors and blogs from people sharing their experiences

But some people are concerned about the message STI dating websites could send.

“These sites can make people think ‘now I am a leper I need to find a leper to date”, says HVA (Herpes Viruses Association) director Marian Nicholson. “People shouldn’t narrow their pool of potential partners.”

“Just because you have the same STI as someone else, it doesn’t mean they’re the same as you in other respects,’ says Dr Pakianathan. ‘One STI doesn’t preclude the presence of others.”

For HIV sufferers, there’s the risk of a ‘super infection’ from a drug-resistant strain carried by someone else, he says. And there are more 100 strains of HPV, of which more than 30 affect the genital area.