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Sunday 26 February 2006
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Internet love and inter-related HIV-prejudice

Dear Diary

It is said that avian species of identical plumage often congregate, and I am sure the adage holds true for all those seeking security in the belief that there is strength in numbers.

And to some degree we do actually derive a sense of wellbeing from our attraction to others suffering the same social exclusions as ourselves.

Then why can the same not be said of people living with HIV or AIDS?

This question arose when a subscriber to my diary expected me to shed some light on why there were so few openly HIV-positive men and women on the worldwide web's numerous dating services.

Knowing of only one local site that catered to the needs of all sexes living with the virus, I found myself at a loss for words.

But despite my verbal jam, I realised from past encounters with other infected people that one of the reasons for what I now call interrelated HIV/AIDS prejudice is that most infected people do not necessarily want to date or even socialise with other infected people.

And I felt the same way until recently.

I met a wonderful person not long after my diagnosis and, still shrouded in secrecy as my status was, I pursued a relationship with them. It was a very a brief encounter as, not long into our liaison, my partner admitted that he had been HIV-positive for close on 10 years.

Suddenly he was not as attractive as when I had been none the wiser.

Following his disclosure I immediately made excuses not to see this person again for what I believed, at the time, was fear of HIV re-infection.

It was only years later, and with this poor soul still unaware of my own positive status, that I swallowed my bitter pill of self-actualisation ... not only was I HIV positive, but I was also HIV prejudiced.

Even now, after being a frequent visitor to that one known local site for all people living with HIV and AIDS, I am yet to include any real contact details, or even a photograph of myself - not as if anyone from the sparse subscriber base were falling over themselves to contact me.

So it seems that, even with figures suggesting millions of HIV-positive people the world over, my fellow discriminators and I, while setting up profiles on HIV-positive dating sites for whatever reason, actually prefer to meet people on sites that do not expect disclosure.

Research in the US shows that more people are now becoming infected with HIV from casual encounters with supposedly HIV-negative people on internet dating sites. But what about South Africa, or the rest of Africa for that matter?

After recently signing up with a popular American online dating service for blacks and non-blacks preferring blacks, I found quite a large number of Africans logged on.

Strange then, with this being one of those rare sites that actually insists on subscribers making their HIV status known, that I have only ever found two HIV-positive people. Me and some other guy.

This specific site does, however, offer you a choice of "HIV-positive, negative, not tested recently and never tested before" when setting up what would hopefully be an 'attractive' profile.

And I am amazed at how many African subscribers, including South Africans, with one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world, are all negative.

If people cannot admit their status when asked on a site where they are practically invisible, then I am guessing they continue that lie all the way through the first date and into the bedroom.

It ultimately comes down to freedom of choice. But even a game of Russian roulette boils down to choice, yet that doesn't stop those few who are brave or stupid enough to try it.

Prejudices have played and will always play a part in our daily lives - but at what cost?

Forever Positive

Hayden Horner

Previous Entry :: All Diary Entries :: Next Entry
Diary Entries
HIV/AIDS Coping Mechanisms: "What would a mayfly do?"
Beyond the Borders of HIV/AIDS Treatment Strategies
HIV/AIDS Feminisation: A new wine in an old bottle
Antiretrovirals - The Wind Beneath My Wings
The Mis-education of HIV/AIDS Clinicians
HIV Prevention 101: Ignoring the Church's views on condoms
Stigma and HIV/AIDS: lethal bedfellows
In remembrance of our women and children
Maids, madams and the "terrible thing"
Internet love and inter-related HIV-prejudice
Previously eyes-wide-shut on HIV and religion
Love, lies and disclosure
Black pot and blacker kettle
Things better left unsaid on the bus
Food for thought while waiting to die
Test results not all good
Diary speaks back
The truth about disclosure

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