South Africa: HIV-Positives in Search of Love, Click Here
September 28, 2005
Two years ago, Internet enthusiast Ben Sassman decided to set up an online dating agency in South Africa for people who are HIV-positive. His HIV-positive friends complained that after disclosing their status, prospective dates often slinked away, said Sassman. "They were saying that when they meet people and disclose their status they don't get a second chance," said the creator of www.thepositiveconnection.co.za, the first such dating site for South Africans with HIV.
While the Web site garnered a good deal of media attention, that has not translated into corporate support, putting on hold plans to market the site elsewhere online, Sassman said. "They [large firms] do not want to associate their brand names or company names with my site. Even your big drug companies, they all told me the same thing."
So far, site membership has not hit the 300 mark, the point at which Sassman, who uses his own resources and time to maintain the site, had planned to start charging members a fee. Sign up remains free at present.
Positive Connection also has to contend with the digital divide, since a large proportion of people with HIV have little if any Internet access. Most form part of South Africa's black majority, which still struggles to emerge from poverty stretching back to apartheid.
Positive Connection features links to tips on using condoms, getting HIV tests, and accessing HIV/AIDS information. Site members can post personal ads; upload photos, voice, and video clips; and "chat instantly with other members."
Some HIV advocates consider such serosorting to be a form of segregation, or acquiescing to HIV stigma. However, others do not believe it reinforces stigma. "We all need someone to love -- and to be loved by somebody gay or straight, black or white, HIV-positive or negative," said one site member.
Inter Press Service
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.