Mabeo is a member of Positive Connection, the only Internet dating forum geared to people with HIV in South Africa, the country with more infections – over 5 million and counting – than any other. I still haven’t found anyone I’ve gotten romantically involved with, but I’m carefully going through the list. AIDS is no longer an automatic killer here. As in the United States, it has become a chronic illness for those with access to antiretroviral drugs. Up to , South Africans are on treatment, well below the half-million deemed in urgent need of care but far more than a few years ago. Life insurance is an option for some with HIV, and medical advances make it easier to bear healthy children. Yet romance remains a fraught pursuit. Despite an adult HIV prevalence rate of about 20 percent, the stigma attached to the disease remains harsh. HIV-negative people, not surprisingly, want to stay virus-free, site members say, and are likely to bolt if a partner discloses positive status. Members are gay and straight, white and black, secretaries and bankers, with one other tie: access to the Internet.
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The Positive Connection was launched in September , with a successful run for the first six years and membership numbers increasing rapidly. Ben Sassman, founder of the website, said “normal” dating sites do not ask you for your HIV status, which still leaves people who are HIV positive with the trauma or stress of disclosing their status to a new date. Sometimes it is for support, just a friend to talk to in a relaxed, informed environment.
Rosenberger, Ph. H, “available data shows that HIV epidemics among gay men and other MSM [men who have sex with men] have expanded in most low-, middle- and upper-income demographics. During his presentation, Rosenberger said that non-intervention studies have shown that, compared with non-app users, app users are more likely to be younger and better educated.
Although “outness” about sexual orientation varied across studies, in all studies of men who met sex partners online, users were more likely to report multiple sex partners yet also higher rates of HIV testing. The majority of men from these studies endorsed the idea that apps and online forums were acceptable sources of sexual health information. However, one study of sexual health content specific apps found that HIV-specific apps were minimally downloaded and not highly rated.
Jack Harrison-Quintana, director of Grindr for Equality, discussed that company’s efforts to politically engage its community of users. Messages Grindr sends to users are segmented by geography, HIV status if users opt into the “Poz Tribe” , gender identity a “Trans Tribe” option , race and age. He went on to say that Grindr has had a huge commitment to PrEP pre-exposure prophylaxis.
Grindr created a plan to send educational messages in the U.
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For the past few years, people have been able to hook up through the Positive Connection, a website offering dating services for HIV sufferers. The service is the brainchild of Ben Sassman, a salesman living in Johannesburg. A few years ago, two of his friends told him they were HIV positive and that they had trouble dating. When they revealed their status, women invariably fled.
But for South African native Mary, simple dating carried potentially disastrous consequences. Mary was HIV-positive and was plagued with issues of revealing her HIV infection to a prospective partner — planning for a long-term relationship when she does not know what the next day holds, and keeping a partner safe from her virus. Mary immediately signed up, and after a few months, had gotten to know two men who were in the “same situation” as her, one from the United Kingdom and the other from South Africa.
Mary’s story is just one of many that Ben Sassman, founder of The Positive Connection, hears everyday. Sassman is one of the few who dares to concern himself with the “living” part of living with HIV, and saw the need for an online dating opportunity for HIV-positive patients. In an effort to help an old friend who was in the same predicament as Mary, Sassman self-funded his own online dating service.
Since its start in , Sassman’s friend, Mary and thousands of other HIV-infected people were able to find love through his website. But instead of focusing on the physical effects of his illness, Sassman’s friend began to describe the difficulties of dating women as an HIV patient. He often felt morally obligated to immediately inform each potential date that he was infected with HIV — almost guaranteeing a rejection for a second date. In trying to remedy his friend’s dating dilemma, Sassman suggested that his friend find someone through an online dating service.
Mary says the purpose of her visit to Sassman’s site was “to get somebody who was in the same situation as me. According to Sassman, about 66 percent of Positive Connection singles are from South Africa but the site is quickly growing to an international level. About members are from the United States. Sassman acknowledges he “had no idea” the site would be such a success.
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He was soon making regular deposits into her bank account, paying her rent and taking her out in exchange for sex, which the young single mother readily accepted as she had a three-month-old baby to feed. This man is old enough to be your dad,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. But “blessing” – where wealthy, older men spend lavishly on younger women – has become a symbol of prestige for teenage girls trapped in a toxic cycle of poverty and ignorance, amid record unemployment and stark inequalities in South Africa.
The term emerged when girls and women started tagging blessed on Instagram and Facebook posts, showing their expensive clothes and shoes paid for by men dubbed blessers. Although new HIV infections have fallen, almost 40 per cent of the , people infected in were young women aged between 15 and 24, South Africa said last year, amid a push to roll out pre-exposure prophylaxis PrEP to at risk adolescents.
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