VeggieDate, ChristianMingle, and even Atlasphere for Ayn Rand lovers. There are so many niche dating sites, it’s no real surprise that STI dating sites have been growing in popularity, so fervently that there are now top ten lists. Sites such as H-YPE and DatePositive, meant specifically for singles with STIs, are rapidly gaining members, just as rates of incurable infections, such as herpes, HPV, and HIV are increasing. PositiveSingles.com, which features the sign-up call to action, “You are not alone. Start dating again,” has accrued over 700,000 members worldwide.
With 20 million new infections in the U.S. each year, many people are finding themselves entering the dating world with an STI. Especially for those with incurable ones, stigma can make the dating scene somewhat difficult to navigate. When is the right time to tell your partner that you have herpes? Too early, and you risk scaring them off. Too late, and you may ruin a built level of trust. Some people fear that others will think they have slept around, when in reality many people contract STIs in long-term relationships. For many, STI dating websites help them battle fear of rejection.
But we should consider the impact of these sites carefully. Yes, they make it easier to find others who won’t discriminate against you for your STI. But the dating sites are only perpetuating the negative stigma associated with STIs. People with STIs shouldn’t have to narrow their dating pool by using a website meant only for others with infections. One’s STI should not make an individual less desirable, and, as the Family Planning Association’s director told BBC News, “you can have a happy, healthy sex life without transmitting an STI.” Let’s be real here, you haven’t been moved to a leper colony. Plenty of those with lasting STIs find love with non-infected partners, because having an STI doesn’t make you a different person. I return to the statistic mentioned earlier: 20 million new STIs per year. If you have an STI, you’re completely normal.
The websites also give the false impression that just because you have an STI, unprotected sex is safe. Having one STI does not prevent contracting others, and it is quite possible to contract other strains of the same infection. HPV alone has over 100 strains.
While we can imagine a world where STI dating sites didn’t have such appeal, as long as there is stigma, these sites will exist. According to a BBC News article, H-YPE founder has called his site a “necessary evil.” These sites meet a high demand, giving people the opportunity to find a community with the same issue and avoid certain awkward dating situations. Until we can battle the stigma as a society, for the numerous singles living with STIs, these sites will continue to keep their strong appeal to human nature.
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