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Kurt, a twenty-four-year-old Arizona man with HPV, lives in the kind of community where everybody knows everybody — a fact that makes dating with a sexually transmitted infection difficult. "Women have been interested in me, but I've just blown them off, even when I've been extremely interested," he says. "These women are always within my circles, and the possibility of people close to me finding out scares me to no end."

So he turned to dating websites that cater specifically to people with STIs. "It gets the monkey off your back right away," he says. "I can feel comfortable getting to know someone and not be thinking, 'How am I going to tell her?"

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Problem is, Kurt hasn't experienced this liberation.  He hasn't met anyone he likes through these services, and hasn't had sex — or even a date — in several years.

Dating websites for people with the same STI seem like a natural niche, one that includes PositiveSingles.com, H-Date.com and the genre's warhorse, MPwH.net (Meet People with Herpes), which was founded in 1997 and has more than 70,000 active members. Newcomer PositiveFriends.com has a photo-editing application that allows you to upload photos which obscure your identity, zooming in on just your tattoo or your eyes. Another new site, VDdate.com, feels a bit rickety with its use of outdated terminology like "venereal disease," but its presence reinforces the point: many STI sufferers are opting out of the general singles population and sticking to their own private dating pool.

Or ghetto, depending on who you're talking to. "Creating specific internet-dating sites for persons with STDs tends to perpetuate stigma by separating them from the general population," says Jeffrey D. Klausner, M.D., director of STD Prevention and Control Services at the San Francisco Department of Public Health. "This isolation suggests that those persons are different and not normal, requiring exceptional means to meet other partners."

In one recent survey, a quarter of respondents said herpes held more stigma than HIV.

"Your self-worth is taken the minute you sign up for one of those sites. You're reduced to believing that you're confined to finding a mate afflicted with the same STI as you," says John Jackson, who co-founded the social-networking site Club462.com as an alternative to the dating-by-niche approach; it is openly inclusive of people with STIs. "The reality is that most people will accept you the way you are, once they know you," he adds, citing three cases of negative-positive romance sparked on his site.

This is not always the case. Jackson recalls showing his brother an STI-dating site as an example of what he didn't want to create. His brother's response: "I guess infected skanks need a place to go, too."

We're supposedly living in an era of sexual enlightenment — BDSM has become pedestrian, furries garner yawns. Yet many people with sexually transmitted infections still feel like members of a second-class citizenry. Blame it on our obsession with health and cleanliness: for many people, a significant other with herpes doesn't mesh with the ideal yoga-and-pomegranate lifestyle. Unlike most other illnesses, STIs are regarded as distasteful, even disgraceful.

This, even though STIs are more common than ever. Calling their spread a "hidden epidemic," the CDC estimates there are 18.9 million new infections each year. At least half of the sexually active population will contract HPV at some point; eighty percent of women will have it by age fifty. Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) is at 1.6 million new cases a year: one in five adults, whether they know it or not, has herpes right now. After a precipitous drop, HIV diagnoses have been climbing slightly since 2001. It's estimated that nearly half a million Americans are living with HIV or AIDS.

And these are just the people who know what they've got — viral STIs are sometimes asymptomatic and frequently go undiagnosed. Statistically, your date is more likely to carry a sexually transmitted infection than to share your astrological sign.




        

  

Commentarium (22 Comments)

Feb 26 08 - 6:04pm
cd

This article only perpetrates the idea that someone with an STD is less than someone without. Only one without an STD would claim that signing up for a STD Dating site considers themselves less...furthermore, it's not that "your self-worth is taken the minute you sign up for one of those sites. You're reduced to believing that you're confined to finding a mate afflicted with the same STI as you"...it's the reaction from the non-informed that reduces you to think you may not be as good.

No matter how you use it, the term "skank", even as a reference to what someone said should not be used in any article that hopes to define dating with STD.

I have been in the "H" community for over 7 years. We do not define ourselves by our STD.

Feb 26 08 - 8:01pm
...

"Kurt, a twenty-four-year-old Arizona man with HPV"

I wonder if he would feel so alienated if he knew how common it is:

http://www.cdc.gov/std/HPV/STDFact-HPV.htm#common

"Approximately 20 million people are currently infected with HPV. At least 50 percent of sexually active men and women acquire genital HPV infection at some point in their lives. By age 50, at least 80 percent of women will have acquired genital HPV infection. About 6.2 million Americans get a new genital HPV infection each year."

Feb 27 08 - 4:05pm
ML

I've been on MpWH for years. I've had nothing but positive experiences come from it. I am now involved with someone who doesn't have herpes--I told him and it's not an issue. I have dated two people long term from MpWH and made many friends. There are several people on that site who had told me they had herpes and I encouraged them to join and they agree that not having to have 'the talk' is very liberating. This site made my life infinitely easier! Thanks MpWH! Shameless Plug: it's free to join!

Feb 27 08 - 4:08pm
ML

Oh, Kurt should put a photo up. I have one posted myself and as such won't respond to an anonymous ad, just as I wouldn't on any mainstream site. I assure Kurt that the rest of the world isn't trolling the site to out him. I have herpes and it took awhile for me to even find out about MpWH!

Mar 01 08 - 1:05am
MA

This article contains the sentence, "Two HPV-positive partners still need to talk about which of the numerous strains each of them carries; if they're not careful, one of them could wind up contracting something new."
If I have my facts straight, it is impossible to know which strains of HPV you have. Therefore, you cannot trade that information with a partner.
Otherwise, the article was great!

Feb 29 08 - 11:38pm
MM

I've had herpes for several years now and don't think I admitted defeat by joining a herpes dating site. I would simply prefer to date someone with else with herpes, so I don't spread the virus further. I also have an ad on a "general" dating site: given that 1 in 4 adults has herpes, I could easily meet someone else there who has it.

Mar 01 08 - 9:38am
ER

I've had herpes for three years now, something that has been difficult to deal with. I've been extremely open about it, hoping to help reduce the stigma by making people see that not everyone infected is a dirty slut. Pretty much everyone in my circle knows, excluding my parents (it would break their hearts). For a long time, I had ignored it, dating guys I met in person or on mainstream websites. Sometimes I would run when it was time to tell, and a few times I told the guys. Surprisingly, they were ok with it. I was not. Though I'm usually a very confident person, this totally shook my self-esteem. When I was intimate with someone, I would always be terrified, knowing that I was putting him at risk. I'd be afraid that he didn't want to touch my "toxic vagina", as I affectionately call it, and I would never initiate anything sexual.
That's when I decided to only date people with HSV. I admit that this decision was easy for me based on numbers. I'm an attractive woman who dates frequently, and I live in NYC, where there are 2 million single men and STIs are rampant. Even if I drastically reduce the amount of men in my dating pool, it is still relatively large. In a different city, I may not have made this decision, but I knew that there were enough attractive, valuable HSV-positive guys in this city.
Dating guys with HSV has been so liberating. I no longer wonder what he's going to think, or, more importantly, how I'm going to feel about myself. I have to be careful not to settle for someone simply because of that commonality, but I see these sites as a wonderful outlet. I have recently met an amazing man and we are working on building a life together. Our relationship began based on total honesty, and hopefully it will stay that way.

May 30 12 - 9:36pm
hgirl

Do you know HerpesDatingNYC.com?

Mar 02 08 - 12:54am
CAM

So why is it there is not a cure yet for Herpes? I've been told by some MDs I know that Pharmaceuticals "won't let a cure move forward". They say Valtrex & Famvir are "cash cows" they want to hang on to........

Mar 02 08 - 6:12pm
NY

If everyone dated only according to their viral & microbial hitchikers, the

Mar 02 08 - 6:18pm
NY

PS to CAM: I've heard that once researchers crack the viral code on HIV (which gets almost all the research $, and rightly so given its possible outcome), all the other viruses (HVP, HSV, etc.) will fall like dominoes.

Mar 02 08 - 10:10pm
mw

There is no approved test for HPV in men, and generally no symptoms except in the case of genital warts which occur with a few types of the virus. So, I'm not sure how a man would know he had HPV unless he had developed warts. In this case he should get the warts treated. Once the warts are gone he is probably as likely to have HPV as anyone else.

Mar 05 08 - 7:32pm
JJ

Thank you. I am sure you are flooded with responses. I am a 42 female, diagnosed last year. I was DEVISTATED. All the obvious reasons are there as to the comfort level we have on these sites, but let me add, the men seem to "get it". Most who have been through this have an honest, sympathetic demeanor. It is refreshing and appreciated.
Thanks, we are not monsters , , , guess I am working on that image thing. :-)
Jenny
Atlanta, GA

Mar 08 08 - 10:30pm
PR

I really liked this article and most of the info I have found on the web about Herpes. I have had herpes for 2 years now, and it has at times been tough to think about dating someone new, my relationship of 2 yrs (with the guy who gave it to me) I am not sure about... so I have been thinking about other people, other things. I dont know what I will do when the time comes, but I have been intrigued by antopia.com and am a member. I have gone over "the talk" in my head many times, to satisfy some need to tell myself that it will be alright. The truth is, I have met guys that I know would be OK with it, and some that I know wouldn't... that intuition isn't 100%, but I think it goes down to maturity and compassion and understanding of people- and also a healthy attitude about sex. I imagine telling someone "it's not what you think" because it's not. I have had few partners, and very few instances of unprotected sex. I hadn't had sex in a long time (in a previous bad relationship) and when I finally got in a new one, the first time we had sex I contracted herpes. The guy denied it and did not support me- I am still with him- he did come around and admit it later (he actually did not know- and went right away to get tested for the antibodies). That was a hard time- to have no support, but these articles and these websites helped me at that time, and although there are some scared people who post very disturbing, depressive thoughts about herpes- we've all been there- I did read the "success stories." I guess what Im saying is that when you get it, it is different from when you've had it for a while and you can see the forest for the trees. I am still a talented, caring, and attractive girl with a lot to offer- emotionally and physically. I know that the only one that can stop me from a real relationship is myself... this is what I have learned from educating myself about herpes. Thanks for this article.

Aug 28 11 - 3:55pm
buy plan b online

I’m really loving the contents of your blog. Hopefully you keep posting regularly. Thanks.

May 30 12 - 7:31am
Lisa

I am a female HPV sufferer. The good news is that I have overcome the disease. I'd love to help anyone else with the same problem. Can join me at Hdate.org , the official dating & support site for people with HPV and other STDs. find meeth323..

May 30 12 - 9:00pm
sunyjojo

Living with Herpes is really hard, especially when you are a single. According to a report from the largest Herpes singles dating site HerpesSupport.net, 98% of its members who used to be on a general dating site to find the love and support were rejected by others. That could be the reason that why HerpesSupport.net is so popular and now has more than 650,000 members.

May 30 12 - 9:05pm
herpesfish

I prefer PozGroup.com to H-date.com. There are many more active members and hot blogs. And I love the feature of "latest activity" and profile / profile visibility settings.

May 30 12 - 9:09pm
Julia

Don't upset by herpes. It is just a virus to most of the people after the careful managment. If you feel alone after get it, I recommend a warm-hearted herpes dating site for you stdsingle. com. There are many singles with herpes are finding support, information, and love here!

May 30 12 - 9:17pm
Nicole-H

Nothing should be shamed. Living with HIV, but can also have sunshining Day- Find love with H+ at STDromance.com

May 30 12 - 9:53pm
moschino

Do you want to meet more positive friends? Are you satisfied with this place? If you are still looking for STD friends or positive singles, you can check more here: herpesdateonline.com.( Hope it's useful 4 U )

Sep 06 12 - 8:02pm
Josie

Is there a Herpes dating site for seniors? Yes, we get STD's too.