Web site matches those with STDs to alleviate rejection and isolation

Bethany Jones

Some people with STDs struggle with dating due to fear of rejection by a partner. A new dating site, MatchSTD.com may be able to help alleviate some of that fear.

Bentley Dawson, 26, and her roommate, James Kassemi, both of Corrales, N.M., developed the dating site that has been up since March 24.

The computer system programming matches members based on an STD or a combination of STDs, then by geographic area.

The site was profiled on CNN, which has caused the number of members to soar, Dawson said. After the CNN report, the site received about 1,500 hits per hour.

“We were not in any way, shape or form expecting this publicity,” she said.

Membership is around 2,000 and it continues to grow, she said.

“I started this because growing up I had a lot of friends that contracted some type of STD,” she said. “I had to listen to their stories of heartbreak when they were rejected. I decided if I ever got a chance, I would do something about it.”

Dawson said Postivelove.com and Positivesingles.com are other popular online dating sites for people with STDs, however she believes hers to be the only one that is completely free and anonymous.

Other sites charge money to join, which means they need your credit card number. With that they have your name and address, so they are not completely anonymous, she said.

Dawson said she tries very hard to stay out of her customers’ business but she does get involved if they choose to post a picture, which is completely optional.

“I didn’t want this turning into a pornographic site and wanted to prevent abuse,” she said.

The site is “extremely gender friendly” and offers options for homosexuals as well as transgender, she said.

Dawson said so far she has received all but one positive e-mail about the site.

“We knew this was a controversial and touchy subject, and I’m glad I actually got to hear some objection,” she said.

Dawson said she and her roommate have funded the site out of their pockets.

“We’re hoping very soon to get some advertising and at least get the site self-supported,” she said.

According to Planned Parenthood, rates of curable sexually transmitted infections in the United States are the highest of any country in the developed world. More than 15 million new STIs occur each year in the United States; one-fourth of these occur among teens. By age 24, one in three people will have contracted an STI, and as many as one in four Americans will contract one throughout their lives.

Women are at a greater risk of contracting an STD than men. A woman’s chance of being infected by a man with HIV is twice as likely as a man’s chance of being infected by a woman with HIV. Women are also more likely to have no signs or symptoms.

Men with STDs may or may not show symptoms.

Taba Aleem, director of communication services for Planned Parenthood, said people with STDs or STIs have a tough time communicating with a partner.

Aleem said actually bringing it up around a partner can be the most difficult. People often fear rejection and the worry that a person will want nothing to do with them, she said.

Aleem said most of the women who are seen at the clinic that are found to have an STI or STD do not ask the clinicians about how to tell their partners they are infected.

Planned Parenthood will give an infected woman information about the infection or disease and a card that she can give to her partner, Aleem said. The card lets the partner know that they may be at risk for a STD or STI and that they can come to Planned Parenthood to be tested anytime.

Aleem said MatchSTD.com would definitely break down the barriers of talking about an STI or STD.

“I’ve only heard about it with HIV,” she said. “Many folks feel that people with HIV or AIDS should only date other people who are HIV-positive because it just makes it easier.”

Aleem said everyone, especially college students, should know the facts about STIs and STDs and learn how to prevent them.

“Don’t assume your partner doesn’t have one, and don’t assume your partner will tell you if they do,” she said.

The newest data from the Ohio Department of Health Web site provides sexually transmitted disease information by Ohioans from 2004. Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are tracked because they can cause serious harm to those infected, but also because they can be controlled through behavior and treatment.

In 2004, there were 39,174 cases of chlamydia in Ohio. The highest number was found in 15- to 19-year-olds with 15,032 cases, followed by 20- to 24-year-olds with 13,875. In Portage County, there was a total of 177 cases.

According to Planned Parenthood, 75 percent of women and 50 percent of men with chlamydia have no symptoms. If untreated, it causes sterility in both women and men.

The 2004 data on gonorrhea shows that there were 20,356 cases in Ohio. The highest infection was in 20-to 24-year-olds with 6,142 cases. Portage County had 55 cases that year.

According to Planned Parenthood, 80 percent of women and 10 percent of men with gonorrhea show no symptoms. Often people with gonorrhea also have chlamydia. It causes sterility, arthritis and heart problems.

The 2004 data on syphilis shows 555 cases in the state of Ohio. The highest rate of infection was in 35- to 39-year-olds with 113 cases. Sixty-six cases were found in 20- to 24-year-olds. In Portage County, there were five cases.

According to Planned Parenthood, if syphilis goes untreated it can cause disfigurement, neurologic disorder or death.

To learn more about sexually transmitted infections and diseases visit [email protected]