As you may have heard, Grindr is asking users whether it should offer the option of filtering profiles by HIV status.
Now, when I first skimmed this news, I thought that Grindr (which I don’t use) was merely floating the idea of letting users identify their HIV status. Of course, I thought! My preferred app, Scruff, offers that option—along with one letting guys ID themselves as “undetectable” or that they’re using “treatment as prevention.”
As someone who’s written about HIV/AIDS for 22 years—and who’s been HIV-positive for 15—I’ve often thought that Scruff’s decision probably educated more gay guys about PrEP and treatments than countless public-service campaigns.
And it’s gone a long way toward taking down the viral apartheid that’s divided HIV-positive and negative men for so long. Guys who are negative now have PrEP in addition to condoms to protect them—and poz men have the peace of mind of knowing that, as long as they’re undetectable, they are essentially not putting anyone else at risk.
But it looks like Grindr is actually floating the idea of letting users block users solely based on HIV status. That means that negative guys who see positive men as damaged goods will never have to see them, never even have to consider them.
Pretend they don’t exist.
That idea is offensive to me—but it’s also depressing. Think of all the HIV-negative guys who’ve been attracted to positive men, and were then motivated to actually have a conversation with them about HIV, risk, what being ’undetectable’ means, and whether they themselves should go on PrEP.
Seeing poz guys as part of the mix keeps us all in conversation about this—on the learning curve. Not seeing them? Then you’ll never know whom you’re missing in terms of desire, dating, love or relationships. And having HIV will once again become this terrifying, unknowable thing each man who tests positive will have to face alone.
Don’t you want your fears to be challenged rather than reinforced? Because that’s all a viral wall on Grindr would lead to.
There’s something else about the idea that bothers me, too: Quarantines create stigma and silence. Nobody wants to be quarantined, shut outside the wall, so many guys likely would become less inclined to identify their HIV status. Maybe even less inclined to get treatment or even get tested.
So we end up with a whole bunch of men on Grindr that you assume are negative but are actually untreated poz guys. It would be a digital version of the kind of false assumptions that have led to so many HIV infections in the pasty few decades.
It’s crazy to me that, just at the point when we have great tools to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS—when we’re finally starting to undo the stigma of being positive—Grindr wants to send us back to the digital ghetto.
That kind of serosorting might have made sense 20 years ago, but it’s 2016. We have not one but two barriers to block HIV transmission in addition to condoms. Why would we consider limiting our options for love—or even just a really hot fuck buddy—over something that we can medically prevent and treat effectively?
I’m definitely swiping left on this backwards idea. I hope Grindr’s users vote the same way.