April 3, 2014 — -- Whether you want to date a Christian, a vegetarian or a millionaire, there’s probably a dating website out there for you, so it should come as no surprise that there are a handful of dating websites geared toward connecting people with the same sexually transmitted diseases.
However, some health experts worry that people with the same STDs may not realize they could have different strains. The experts fear that might lead to infections with multiple strains of herpes, HPV or HIV -- a development that could heighten the health dangers to the daters.
“Whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea, it certainly should not be a substitute for using all the same precautions you would use when dating outside that website,” said Dr. Andrew Sikora, a head and neck cancer specialist who deals with cases caused by HPV.
Having two strains of HPV can increase a patient’s likelihood of developing cancer, Sikora said.
Having two strains of HIV also could be dangerous, said Dr. Michael Wohlfeiler, the chief medical officer of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. If one partner has been able to control his or her HIV with medication, getting a second strain could replace the first strain and be resistant to medication.
Wohlfeiler, who practices HIV medicine in Miami, said his HIV-positive patients generally tell him they don’t practice safe sex. He added that people who go to these sites often think they don’t have to worry about spreading the virus to their partners because their partners already have it.
Still, PositiveSingles.com spokeswoman Jenelle Marie said the site is a great way for people with STDs to get back into the dating world after their diagnosis. Founded in 2001, it was one of the first STD-positive dating websites and it now has about 800,000 members. Other sites include STDMatch.net, Mpwh.net, and PositiveLove.com.
Some users have found love, and others have just found good friends who understand what it's like to live with an STD, Marie said.
“It was a good way to get my feet wet again,” said Marie, who began using the site herself after she was diagnosed with a strain of herpes. “It can be such a traumatic experience contracting an STD to begin with. It’s a great way to get confidence back. ... I found it incredibly rewarding. I am still sexy. I am still attractive.”
Still, she said, PositiveSingles.com is not a place to help arrange unsafe sex encounters for people who have the same STDs. Users still need to be wary before giving out personal information, and they need to know that the STDs are self-reported, not verified.