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|Hayley Matthews • 7/22/16|
The Short Version: The path to finding a date or partner — often full of trip-hazards and pitfalls — can be difficult to navigate under the best of circumstances. But for those with a sexually transmitted infection (STI), the experience can come with a lot of anxiety. Many people dealing with an STI diagnosis — and the associated stigma — often feel like they’re alone with their illness. Luckily, PositiveSingles has created a community full of hope, where more than a million members with STIs are finding friends, dates, and, most importantly, understanding.
No one wants to possibly ruin the romance of a date by having to confess “I have an STI,” but for the millions of people suffering from a sexually transmitted infection, it’s a necessary conversation. For them, the problem of figuring out how — and when — to tell a potential partner about their condition can make finding love seem like an impossible task.
“When people get diagnosed, their first question is always, ‘How am I going to date again?’” said Jenelle Marie Davis, Spokesperson for PositiveSingles, a dating and networking website built just for those with STIs. “Usually, what they know is very little and highly stigmatized.”
Many users echo Jenelle’s words in the thousands of stories posted in the website’s forums and blogs — all achingly similar. One member asked, “Who would want someone with an incurable STI?” and admitted that, before finding PositiveSingles, he felt “finding true love was no longer an option.”
PositiveSingles is helping to change the story for their users, providing an environment where they can make connections with others and find the acceptance they need to rebuild their lives — and, maybe, find love.
Signing up for PositiveSingles is much like it is on other dating websites, with one remarkable difference: the “Living With” category, where users disclose the type of STI with which they have been diagnosed. The diagnoses are displayed openly on user profiles, and include short-term infections, like gonorrhea and syphilis, as well as long-term conditions, like herpes and HIV.
After joining, users can take advantage of the usual online dating features, such as posting multiple profile pictures and utilizing the search feature to track down that perfect match. Standard members — differentiated from the “Gold” members, or paid users — can search by gender, age, and state, and view all the public photos of potential dates. For more filters, try becoming a Gold member, and gain the ability to search by distance, condition, or a variety of physical and lifestyle criteria.
Found a profile that might belong to “The One”? Add it to your “Favorites” list, or send them a “Wink” to break the ice. Emails can be exchanged between Gold members, allowing for full conversations and a deeper connection.
PositiveSingles also features a live chat room, which is fully accessible to Gold members and free to view for Standard members. Users who hit it off in the chat room can add a user to their “Favorites” or send a private message right from the chat window.
For the privacy conscious, there is the “Quick Exit” feature, available only to paid members. The “Quick Exit” button closes out the PositiveSingles website, redirecting the user to another, more innocuous website to protect his or her privacy from onlookers.
More than a date, though, many PositiveSingles users simply need to know they’re not alone. “Ultimately, people want to feel like they fit in, like there is somebody that understands where they’re coming from,” Jenelle said.
Everyone at PositiveSingles knows how important it is for users to feel a sense of belonging, and they have worked hard to build a safe, open community where users can not only find a date, but much needed resources, support, and understanding.
Members are encouraged to take advantage of PositiveSingles’ blog — open to both paid and free members — where they can write and maintain personal posts. Here, other members can find inspiration, taking heart that they are not alone in struggling with their conditions. More than 500 new blog posts are shared on PositiveSingles every day.
For users with questions or in need of advice, the site’s forums are full of active, helpful members willing to pass on their knowledge and experience. Topics range from coping with your diagnosis and breaking the news to family, to new medications and treatments.
One of the newest additions to the networking tools on PositiveSingles is the Facebook-esque “Groups” feature, where users can join other users in groups based on their interests. Many of the groups formed thus far are regional, though there are several for users in specific age ranges, with one of the largest being the “Over 40” group. There are both public and private groups, and the posts made within private groups are only visible to group members.
As part of their effort to be the total package for those with STIs, PositiveSingles also offers a wide variety of informational and support resources to their members. The comprehensive information page includes details about symptoms, testing, and legal matters, and even provides a gallery of helpful pictures.
For those researching treatment options, there are hundreds of posted “Treatment Stories,” where users share the medications and treatments that have worked best for them. Having trouble finding the right clinic? PositiveSingles has a huge database of over 900 care locations that can be sorted by state.
One of the most unique features of PositiveSingles is the “Live Support” function, which gives members the ability to talk to a fully accredited counselor on demand. All PositiveSingles counselors have backgrounds in public health and/or STIs, have extensive experience dealing with confidential medical issues, and are fully vetted to ensure the safety and privacy of the site’s members.
While not all sufferers of an STI have to live with daily symptoms, they all live with the constant stigma of their conditions. For them, PositiveSingles is there, helping them change their lives — and come to terms with their diagnoses.
The success stories from thousands of PositiveSingles users extoll the many virtues of the website that helped them find their happily-ever-afters. The best stories, though, are the unexpected journeys that end with members showing gratitude for the very conditions that they once considered to be curses.
“If it weren’t for us contracting what we did, we never would have met,” concluded one member, who got the answer to his question “Who would want someone with an incurable STI?” when he met now-fiancée on PositiveSingles. “Our lives are better and happier than ever before.”