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HIV Awareness 2019

Swipe right: Oz explains dating and living with HIV

Oğuzhan (Oz) Nuh

International AIDS Society Member and a 25-year-old student from Turkey

Almost 220 million people globally use online dating services. In a world where more and more people meet partners virtually, how and when do you disclose your HIV status? International AIDS Society Member, 25-year old Oz, shares his experience of living with HIV and navigating online dating.

Like my millennial peers, I mostly meet people through dating apps.

One common feature of the apps I use is the option to display your HIV status, or the last time you had an STI test. In some, you can also specify that your viral load is undetectable or you are on PrEP.

Displaying your HIV status on your profile

While living in Germany, I saw many people’s profiles displaying their status, which encouraged me to do the same. One night, a while after I moved back to Turkey, I saw someone whose status said ‘on PrEP’. I was using a new app and remembered my profile was empty, so I added ‘positive and undetectable’. I didn’t think much of it, because I was open with everyone about my HIV status.

However, I realised that – unlike in Germany – no one’s status actually said ‘positive’.

Those who displayed their HIV positive status were extremely rare and were usually empty profiles.

If you want to disclose your status, do it when it feels right, and when you feel comfortable.

The stigma of a ‘positive’ status

After this, some people I was talking to stopped responding. Others messaged me, thinking I had made a mistake and prompted me to correct my status. This was happening for days. It started getting too much and all my conversations ended up discussing HIV, which I was doing enough of in my daily life, so I ultimately removed it.

I guess I can say that dating apps started feeling a bit more toxic after I was diagnosed. Going into an app where people commonly use hashtags like #ddf (drug and disease free) and #clean (meaning HIV negative), sometimes followed by ‘u b 2’ (meaning you should be HIV negative too), not only angers me but is upsetting.

Seeing those highly stigmatising signs again and again can ruin your self-esteem; but it shouldn’t mean you can’t meet or date people online.

Disclosing your HIV status is a very personal decision. There is no right time or way to do it and you don’t have to disclose at all. If you want to disclose your status, do it when it feels right, and when you feel comfortable, or things can get awkward. And yes, this comes from experience 🙂

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