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South African Ben Sassman admits his bid to help a lonely friend living with HIV/Aids started out as a “feel-good project for myself” but is now an online dating service reaching people around the globe.The Positive Connection, in its third year, can even claim success in the matchmaking game, having brought together a few solid partnerships.The Positive Connection has evolved since 2003, boosting the resource side with recent HIV/Aids research, web articles on the disease, testing centres, support groups, health tips and drug information, including the latest on anti-retroviral treatments and updates from the United States Food and Drug Administration.The site has filled a niche, now getting about 4Â 000 visits per month, Sassman said.It also counts 492 registered members—registration is free; there are “no hidden costs”—of whom 291 are from South Africa, a country where about 5,5-million people, or more than 18,8% of the population, are living with HIV or Aids, according to figures published in May by UNAids.One of these is “Kelly-Babe” a 26-year-old from Cape Town.So Sassman came up with his idea—an online resource site and meeting place for people living with the stigma of HIV/Aids.
But the friend baulked, saying “he’ll still have to disclose his status” and face rejection.
If people meet someone on in September 2003 with a R28Â 000 (Â 000) investment footed solely by Sassman himself—“you’re both in the same health boat, and you can just go on with the date and not worry about disclosing [your status],” he said.“Therefore there is no emotional pressure explaining your current health status.
I thought it would add a little class to how they can meet new and interesting people,” the site reads.
“I am a lady who is HIV-positive, willing to meet someone who does not have a problem about my status, someone who is friendly and caring,” reads her ad.“Leoguy” (30) from East London, South Africa, says he has “shy appearance yet fun to be around” and wants “sweetness in a relationship” and in return “will offer love and warmth”.
The 39-year-old Cape Town resident, who is married, says his website is “the first and only one in the world solely dedicated” to people living with HIV/Aids.
The idea came after watching the disappointment and stress of an HIV-positive friend repeatedly turned down by women he wanted to date.