Ask Anya Dixit* how she met her husband and she would reply through mutual friends. Of course, everyone would accept what she says readily. But Anya has a secret known only to the people close to her. The couple met on a dating website for patients with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Anya thought her life was over when she was diagnosed with the HIV virus but today, she strongly believes that STD-infected people can find love again… if only they believe in themselves and the internet!
Anya was 27-years-old when she learnt of her STD and believed she had no more hopes of getting married or finding love. Then, a few months ago, Anya was getting bored so she decided to visit dating websites and that is when she came across PositiveSingles.com, a website that specializes in connecting people all over the world with an STD. Anya signed up and that is where she met her husband-of-two-months, Derek Hayes*, 34, who is also HIV positive. They had a quick courtship and a whirlwind marriage. Today, the STD-infected couple, who used to be very hesitant to date, feels they are blessed to have found love again.
In an emailed response to Guardian Liberty Voice, Jenelle Marie, spokesperson for PositiveSingles.com said that “because the stigma associated with sexually transmitted diseases and infections is so immense, people who are diagnosed are often terrified of how they will be perceived by potential partners, and they don’t know how they will approach the conversation in new relationships.”
“PositiveSingles’ interactive platform not only allows for those who have tested positive with an infection to find others who also have the same infection, it provides a way for those who are diagnosed to learn from one another – to ask questions of others in similar situations via the interactive forum – and to do additional research about how to responsibly and healthily approach the dating scene again,” she added.
Marie further said that “…when diagnosed with an STD, that kind of help can be invaluable – it is usually the difference between seeing oneself in a negative light and letting an infection define you or being able to move past the initial shock and shame to become a stronger, more loving individual capable of finding a healthy and rewarding relationship again.”
Anya agrees. “The only reason I signed up in the first place was because I thought to myself that if everyone else on this website has an STD, they cannot judge me. I felt comfortable knowing I would be among people who understand me and share worries like mine,” she said.
According to last year’s Pew Research Center’s Internet Project, one in ten Americans have used an online dating site or mobile dating app in hopes of finding a successful relationship. The study said that 11 percent of internet users, 38 percent of which are still “single and looking,” have personally used an online dating site to find a partner. Seven percent of mobile phone app users said they have downloaded and used a dating app.
Of these, 66 percent said that they have been on a date with a potential partner they met on the dating websites they subscribe to, whereas 23 percent said that their search had been successful as they met a spouse or long term relationship through these dating websites.
With the progress of technology, better internet services and high usage of social networking websites, online relationships and long distance relationships are easier to manage and more generally accepted now as 59 percent of all internet users agreed that online dating websites are “a good source to meet people.” It is more common for Americans between the ages of mid-20s through mid-40s to seek partners via a dating website.
Meanwhile, US researchers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences also discovered that more than one-third US marriages were successful due to a dating website. It was also discovered during the research that marriages resulting from online dating lasted longer with higher likeliness of the couple being happy in their relationship.
With so many people turning to the internet to find successful relationships, it is no surprise that the billion-dollar industry is focusing on special needs of the people and online dating sites are increasingly becoming specialized.
“Technology has changed everyone’s life. People do not really understand its potential unless they are among the ones that stand out in the crowd. Take, for example, the girl who found her birth mother via Facebook, or the young girl whose eyes will now be treated upon just because some random person commented there was a problem with them, or me who found my happily-ever-after even though I would have been shunned in my own country, India. Ask us what technology means to us,” said Anya.
Speaking about her life with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), a STD that affects more than one million Americans today and if left untreated can result in serious illness and death, Anya said that she had been “absolutely terrified” when she had learnt that she was infected.
“I was numb. I still do not remember a word of what the doctor told me that day. It was like as if my mind had paralyzed. It did not speak to anyone or go out for days. I just cried. I did not even want to get myself treated. I just wanted to die. I really thought my life was over. I thought back to every time I had been reckless in my relationships and wished I had not been so stupid. I knew exactly what had got me here,” she further said.
“But today, I am glad I finally made up my mind to fight back and pay for the mistakes I made. I love and I am loved back. There cannot be a happier person than me in this world. Now, I beg everyone to be more thoughtful and to protect themselves against STDs but I also tell them that being an STD-infected person does not mean the end of the world. No one should give up on life, and more importantly, on love. Love always gives as second chances and we all can find love again.”
*Names have been changed to protect identity
By Faryal Najeeb
HIV Patient Anya Dixit*
PositiveSingles.com spokesperson Jenelle Marie