So what do you do when the doctor tells you that the funny red bumps between your legs are gonorrhea?
Or when you’ve been told by a sexual partner that you might have genital herpes?
In our Internet-savvy society, people who have been faced with those questions have come up with a solution – online dating exclusively for people with STDs.
What Match.com or eHarmony.com does for the person looking for a lasting relationship, PositiveSingles.com and similar Web sites do the same for those who have contracted sexually transmitted diseases. But do these dating sites offer real answers or more confusion?
According to 2005 statistics by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that there are “19 million new [STD] infections each year” and that nearly half of the new cases involve people between 15 and 24 years old. And there are still a majority of sexually transmitted disease cases, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, that go undiagnosed or unreported, including Human Papillomavirus – an STD that affects nearly 20 million people and is reported to be a prevalent cause of cervical cancer in women.
Unfortunately, what online dating for those with STDs does not do is perform professional medical diagnoses and treatment, which would be the first step in helping those infected with STDs to control or eliminate their malady. With the majority of new STD infections being so young, their vulnerability or embarrassment might lead them to make the mistake of not seeking medical or emotional health services.
Online dating for those with STDs does, however, have the potential of being a useful source of information
for those who have contracted a sexually transmitted disease and are looking for answers, but are unsure who to turn to for guidance because of the embarrassment
or fear of discrimination associated with having an STD.
The ability to see others online that suffer from genital herpes or HIV, and who are open with their stories of having the same anxieties or frustrations, can give encouragement and emotional support that may not have been there otherwise.
To someone searching for help or answers through STD dating sites, they may notice the stories and anecdotes of others who have had success in finding the perfect match for them. But finding a matching partner online isn’t a license for unprotected sex.
Dina Stonberg, coordinator for the Temple Health Empowerment Office, said, “The only way to protect yourself is using a condom; just because someone looks good, feels good, smells good doesn’t mean that they don’t have an STD.”
Because of the biological nature of some STDs, such as HIV, newer and more medically resistant strains of a sexually transmitted disease can be spread, endangering
both the health and well being of the person that is least affected by their particular form of the STD.
The fact is through the use of contraceptives, the majority of sexually transmitted diseases cannot be spread between sexual partners. Stonberg says, “It doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter how much money you make, it doesn’t matter what color your skin is. The only thing that matters is the behavior. It’s not who you are; it’s what you do.”
Whether online STD dating provides useful information and hope to those suffering with a disease, or does the opposite by not providing the relevant facts of contracting or living with an STD, these Web sites do stand as a testament that having unprotected sex is not worth the possibility of suffering from an illness for the rest of your life.
Gabe Mink can be reached at