Dear Diary

It is said that avian species of identical plumage often congregate, and I am sure the adage holds true for all those seeking security in the belief that there is strength in numbers.

And to some degree we do actually derive a sense of wellbeing from our attraction to others suffering the same social exclusions as ourselves.

Then why can the same not be said of people living with HIV or AIDS?

This question arose when a subscriber to my diary expected me to shed some light on why there were so few openly HIV-positive men and women on the worldwide web’s numerous dating services.

Knowing of only one local site that catered to the needs of all sexes living with the virus, I found myself at a loss for words.

But despite my verbal jam, I realised from past encounters with other infected people that one of the reasons for what I now call interrelated HIV/AIDS prejudice is that most infected people do not necessarily want to date or even socialise with other infected people.

And I felt the same way until recently.

I met a wonderful person not long after my diagnosis and, still shrouded in secrecy as my status was, I pursued a relationship with him. It was a very brief encounter as, not long into our liaison, my partner admitted that he had been HIV-positive for close on 10 years.

Suddenly he was not as attractive as when I had been none the wiser.

Following his disclosure I immediately made excuses not to see this person again for what I believed, at the time, was fear of HIV re-infection.

It was only years later, and with this poor soul still unaware of my own positive status, that I swallowed my bitter pill of self-actualisation … not only was I HIV positive, but I was also HIV prejudiced.

Even now, after being a frequent visitor to that one known local site for all people living with HIV and AIDS, I am yet to include any real contact details, or even a photograph of myself – not as if anyone from the sparse subscriber base were falling over themselves to contact me.

So it seems that, even with figures suggesting millions of HIV-positive people the world over, my fellow discriminators and I, while setting up profiles on HIV-positive dating sites for whatever reason, actually prefer to meet people on sites that do not expect disclosure.

Research in the US shows that more people are now becoming infected with HIV from casual encounters with supposedly HIV-negative people on internet dating sites. But what about South Africa, or the rest of Africa for that matter?

Prejudices have played and will always play a part in our daily lives – but at what cost?

After recently signing up with a popular American online dating service for blacks and non-blacks preferring blacks, I found quite a large number of Africans logged on.

Strange then, with this being one of those rare sites that actually insists on subscribers making their HIV status known, that I have only ever found two HIV-positive people. Me and some other guy.

This specific site does, however, offer you a choice of “HIV-positive, negative, not tested recently and never tested before” when setting up what would hopefully be an ‘attractive’ profile.

And I am amazed at how many African subscribers, including South Africans, with one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world, are all negative.

If people cannot admit their status when asked on a site where they are practically invisible, then I am guessing they continue that lie all the way through the first date and into the bedroom.

It ultimately comes down to freedom of choice. But even a game of Russian roulette boils down to choice, yet that doesn’t stop those few who are brave or stupid enough to try it.

Prejudices have played and will always play a part in our daily lives – but at what cost?

Forever positive,

Hayden Horner


(Hayden’s Diary is originally published on PlusNews.)


I am Hayden Horner, a journalist with the United Nations news agency (IRIN) Integrated Regional Information Network. I write primarily for their HIV/AIDS news service, PlusNews, and cover issues on AIDS from around the continent. I am HIV-positive, though I’ve been told that I don’t look like someone who may eventually die of an AIDS-related illness. I’m still trying to figure out the meaning of that.

Unlike many of the “accidental victims” of this disease, I can’t blame anyone for my infection because, while I did not know it at the time, I chose the path that I am currently on. The diagnosis only helped to encourage me to go on searching for what I was needing to heal. While my search was still for love and happiness, the source would be somewhere else. From within. It took a lot of searching, but I think I am finally at peace with my situation.

I am now 30 years old and single, but I have a fulfilling career, a roof over my head, good friends and a sober mother who has become a pillar of strength for me. So everything turned out okay in the end. I’ve heard that life is a journey, and I plan on enjoying what’s left of the ride.

For more information on Hayden, click here.

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