Straight people with HIV don't have the same social benefits that many urban areas provide to gay men with HIV. For many heterosexuals who want the same levels of social acceptance and support that we have achieved in homosexual communities, nothing really exists.
The "heterosexual world" does not offer socially-sanctioned support or acceptance to heterosexuals with HIV. And even if we did all love and appreciate one another, sometimes we want to be with people just like ourselves.
So where are straight guys and chicks to be found? I don't see them anywhere! There is no straight SexVibe or even Frontiers. The Red Onion doesn't host a night for HIV-positive people to mingle, and T.G.I.Fridays doesn't post HIV information at the door.
Gays blazed the trail
Because of the hardships that many gay men and lesbians faced when coming out, the gay community set up many supportive services and structures. This meant that when HIV made its headway in our direction, we didn't exactly have to reinvent the wheel.
The women's health movement of the '70s and gay rights activism really paved the way for HIV services and activism. After a somewhat rocky (and well-documented) start, the gay community ultimately picked up the ball and ran with it. It seems that most AIDS-service organizations and AIDS activist groups sprung forth from gay hands.
I don't think that the same sort of situation exists out there in the less cloistered world of the heterosexual with HIV. Unfortunately, in the big, bad world out there, neither of these movements made a whole lot of impact, so when HIV started to appear in the heterosexual community, they had no idea where to start.
Due to an overwhelming consciousness of HIV as a "gay disease" (remember GRID?), the prevalence of homophobia, and lack of access to information about services for people with HIV, AIDS-service organizations were only able to serve the people who knew that they existed and were willing to come to them. Therefore, their services remained oriented to predominantly gay male clientele.
Many agencies are grappling with ways to become more accessible to heterosexual women and men. Activities and support groups aimed at attracting straight people living with HIV are now in place.
But what about people who aren't interested in supportive services? What about the ladies and gentlemen who just want to make friends or find people to date? What about people who aren't interested in services from an ASO?
There just isn't the same level of acceptance as there is in the gay community, and there isn't a lot of publicized information out there. If there is a heterosexual HIV community, it's hard to find.
A bounty of services
All I have to say is: "Thank God for the Internet."
Web sites have been established by people whose sole intention was to meet straight people with HIV, and to help other straight people with HIV get to know one another. For those who have Internet access, there are many free, web-based e-mail services you can access from any computer by a modem.
I know that not everyone owns a computer, but AIDS Project Los Angeles and some other organizations provide computers for individuals to use, free of charge. If you don't have regular access to a computer, or computers are not your communication-method-of-choice, I would venture to assume that sending an introductory e-mail or postal letter to some of these people will get you a bunch of phone numbers and mailing addresses.
For less computer-savvy readers, many of the sites mentioned here feature listings of people who are looking for pen pals. Most of these sites provide links to other sites, and, perhaps more importantly, mailing addresses to other heterosexuals who are out there trying to hook up with each other, and with you.
Certain pitfalls to the Internet bear mentioning. When you are on the computer, you can present yourself however you like -- and so can everyone else. Please be cautious. Things (and people) aren't always what or who they seem to be.
Although these websites are created and maintained by other HIV-positive people, the sites are accessible to everyone. Think carefully before posting your home address or telephone number. Posting an e-mail address or P.O. box is generally safer.
If you hook up with someone on the Internet and you plan on meeting in person, do so in a public place. Bring a friend along, or let your friends know where you will be meeting. The Internet can be seductive, and you may feel that you know someone well after exchanging a few e-mails. But you never really know someone until you meet them face-to-face. On the positive side, there is a world out there full or potential friends or lovers.
So what are you waiting for? Join the party!
This HIV-positive "living room" allows you to browse through a bulletin board of messages from other club members. You also have the option of entering a chat room, if you prefer instant communication. According to the founder, this club is "a place for positive people to share experience, strength, and hope."
This site is a very friendly, high-seas themed site. They have an HIV-personals section including options like "alluring women," "hungry men," "same gender preferred," and the ever intriguing "other desires". The personals are from all across the U.S., and some of them are very hot. They also host a chat room, forums, a "scribes" area where users can post messages on any topic they choose, and links -- just about everything you could ask for.
Heterochat is a very impressive site for HIV-positive heterosexuals. This site is offered in both English and Spanish, and features personal ads, a chat room, resources, links, home pages of other HIV-positive heterosexuals, women's resources, heterosexual support groups, and more. According to their mission statement, "It's time that Pos Heteros come out of hiding, connect, unite, teach, empower, and support one another, from all parts of the globe."
This site is specifically designed for positive heterosexuals looking for dates. It is based in San Diego, but the personal ads span the U.S., with most of them in the Southern California area. This site also features a links page, and a section for HIV positive young people.
HIV Straight was "designed to help HIV-positive heterosexuals, HIV-positive women and those affected by HIV." In this site, you can browse through personal ads, use chat rooms and message boards, or even find pen pals! Also, national upcoming events for HIV-positive heterosexuals are listed, accompanied by photos from previous events.
In English, French, Spanish, Portugese,Italian and Dutch, this site truly is global in its intent. The only requirements are that you are a woman, and that you have an e-mail address. If you don't already have e-mail, they have thoughtfully provided links to three free, web-based e-mail providers so you can obtain an address right then and there. You will also have to fill out an information form before you can access the site. They want to ensure that no one is lurking around making the site uncomfortable for anyone else. As far as social resources, there is a chat component set up as well as a bulletin board.
LifeForce was formed because of the lack of support groups for heterosexuals that provide specifically for social support and networking." Based on those ideals, LifeForce has emerged as a heterosexual support group for HIV-positive individuals, couples and their families. they have informed gatherings monthly in San Francisco where you can make new friends and increase your knowledge. They also host parties and social events, serving primarily Northern California residents.
Living Positive was created "to provide an anonymous and safer way for people living with HIV and AIDS to meet for frienship and dating." This site provides message boards for everyone, regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation. There are also medical links and free classified ads.
According to this site's mission statment,it was created "to provide emotional, holistic and social support to individuals living with HIV/AIDS, targeting heterosexuals, the newly diagnosed and their family and friends." Numerous resources are provided throughout this site, including: support groups, social activites (right now there's a cruise on the agenda!), educational lectures, peer conseling and outreach, an exensive resource center and library, a speakers bureau, holistic therapies and a quarterly newsletter.
This support site offers you the option of scheduling in support chats or simply sitting in on leisure chats. Once you become a member (which is free), you can add a link to your own site or submit information about upcoming events of which you are aware. This site can also be found through the New England Hetero Society (www.hetero.net).