Let's 'Clean' House
It is amazing to have access to thousands of profiles with a glimpse of an individuals’ face and a little blurb about them. You are about to private message them, but then you read on their profile that they only want to interact with people that do not have HIV.
From the start, a potential romantic or fun encounter is stopped cold by unkind words. Words like, ‘clean only’ and ‘no poz folks’ send a message of exclusion and hurt to every person living with HIV who sees this profile. Social dating apps that cater directly to LGBTQ+ male-identified individuals tend to be the worst offenders, while the odds of connecting with an HIV positive person is quite higher in this community of people.
Alienation in online dating apps
Words like ‘clean’ send the wrong message to people in our community. What is the opposite of clean? ‘Dirty’. This word 'dirty' is not something I would use to describe anyone, especially someone living with a chronic disease. No one chooses to have chronic health conditions, and seeing and hearing negative talk around HIV can be emotionally damaging.
Clean versus dirty
Words like, ‘clean only’ on a profile are broadcasting to every HIV positive person that they are not welcome in that online space. The person is not even given a chance to express interest or say a word without respecting the fact that a ‘clean’ preference excludes them for communicating with a person that does not have the virus. It is the sign in the yard of your virtual profile that shows your preference but can inadvertently reveal insecurity.
Fear of HIV in online dating apps
That insecurity is the fear of catching the virus. Fear is based on our perceptions, gut reactions, and beliefs that slowly develop into stigma or feelings of shame and disgrace. HIV has caused the deaths of millions of people worldwide and the fear of death was a reality. This combined with sexual intercourse as a primary mode of transmission made assigning a value judgment of ‘shame’ and ‘disgraceful’ to HIV an easy task. Medical science has changed this narrative.
Addressing HIV stigma with education
HIV is a manageable chronic illness, not a death sentence. There are an array of medications and therapies available to manage or reduce viral loads to undetectable levels, and medications to prevent the exposure to the disease via PrEP. Yet, the stigma still exists.
Our fear of HIV made sense 30 years ago but today, the story is different. The truth of HIV is that it is preventable and, if you are in the care of a health professional, you can reduce your risk of spreading the virus almost down to zero. Medicines today can reduce the amount of virus in your blood down to an undetectable level. And if the virus is UNDETECTABLE in an HIV positive person, then it is UN-TRANSMITTABLE. Let change the narrative on HIV.
At what age were you diagnosed with HIV?