We've finally found a niche online dating site that makes sense. PositiveSingles.com is an online community where people with STDs can find support -- and a chance at romance.
"One of the biggest obstacles for people with STDs is that they figure that their social life is gone," Steven Kasper, a consultant who has been involved with Positive Singles since it was founded in 2001, told The Huffington Post. "How and when do you reveal that you've got some kind of STD? [The site] reduces the anxiety and the awkwardness, because members know it's a little bit easier to talk to people about that and reveal their status. There's not the stigma that you would see out in general society."
An estimated 110 million Americans have some form of STD, according to CDC data released in February 2013, with 20 million new cases diagnosed each year. Kasper estimates that Positive Singles has over 700,000 members worldwide, and a recent survey revealed that 20-30 year olds were the site's fastest-growing demographic.
Positive Singles also offers online counseling support for people managing a new diagnosis and coming to terms with the stigma of testing positive for an STD.
In a September 2012 piece for the Huffington Post, blogger and CEO of Mister app Carl Sandler explained the culture of fear surrounding people with STDs -- in particular, men who are HIV-positive -- and called for more open discussion of STD status. "More open disclosure can lead toward better, more informed, and safer sex," he wrote. "It would also go far toward removing some of the shame we have toward the disease."
Positive Singles is not the only site of its kind. In October 2012, Jack Mackenroth launched Volttage, a dating site, news hub and online community for HIV-positive gay men. In an interview with The Body, Mackenroth explained that the site hopes to provide users with much more than a chance at dating:
I think Volttage can be an amazing tool for combating stigma and changing the way people perceive what living with HIV means. Visibility is one of the most powerful tools for changing public opinion. As the Volttage community grows, I hope its influence grows within the gay community and we can influence the stigma.
Both Volttage and Positive Singles report numerous success stories. "I can't wait to see where our relationship takes us," wrote one happy Positive Singles user who met a partner through the site. "What a fantastic feeling. There is someone out there for everyone."