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These companies are nothing but vultures, co-opting the language of activism. Herpes dating sites work by creating a community of herpes singles and providing a safe, anonymous, shame-free environment for them to interact in.Which leads me to my next concern: these websites and apps are not created by people with STIs, or by people who are openly STI positive.Some of them bring on consultants in the sexual health world, but only after the fact, and by and large their founders do not come from our community. She wanted me to become a spokesperson, and when I refused, someone higher up in the food chain emailed me again. But then the same thing happened again with another STI dating site, and then another, and another. I don’t think any STI dating service is going to reinvent the wheel and be successful when so many have tried and failed in the past.
Like other dating services, they can be unsafe spaces for women where harassment and coercion thrive. In a world where we are judged for having a sexually transmitted condition, telling a new partner about herpes means risking a rejection that plenty of herpes people would rather avoid. There is a market for these services, and I don’t want to dismiss the experiences of the people who use them. I don’t mean to knock the insecurities of people with herpes: I want to address the companies that profit off of them. Herpes dating services have been around since the Internet was invented, thanks to a powerful social stigma that makes disclosing your STI status a frightening prospect for many of us.STI dating services are almost always unethical money-grabs that prey on what seems like a potentially underserved niche market.This Silicon Valley opportunism is antithetical to real social change and progress.These entrepreneurs may believe they have our best interests at heart, but they will never understand the stigma as well as someone who lives with it.They do not listen to the needs and opinions of this community, and they take funding and attention away from real efforts to provide treatment and testing, and to de-stigmatize sexual health.Unfortunately, our society unfairly looks down on people who have sexually transmitted diseases, even though HSV-1 and HSV-2 are extremely common.As such, herpes singles often suffer from romantic rejection and stigmatization.The relationships that start with the premise “Hey I’ve got herpes too, let’s get a drink!” are usually short and predicated on nothing more than a false sense of familiarity.