An HIV negative user on Scruff, a gay dating app, is being praised for educating another user about what it means to be living with HIV.
Users who identify as "positive" on apps such as Scruff and Grinder are often passed over in favor of someone who is negative.
Some even face discrimination and abuse for their status.
Grant, an HIV educator from New York, told Pink News about his interaction with the user belonging to a demographic with misconceptions about HIV and hopes "that people's sexual decisions are based in science, not stigma."
Grant took screenshots of his interaction with the ill-informed user and shared their exchanges with the U.K.-based LGBT publication.
"The topic of HIV came about while discussing our sexual practices."
It might be Scruff, but there’s always a good opportunity for HIV education 🤓 https://t.co/w0lRftHQO6— grant 🎃 (@grant 🎃) 1570500243.0
The flirting turned a corner when the user mentioned how he adjusts his safe sex practices based on one's HIV status.
"He made some comment that came across as if he would change his (lack of) condom use based on HIV status, so I inquired about it."
Grant found an appropriate moment in the conversation to address the HIV-related stigma and double standard.
"When he said he would use a condom with someone who was HIV-positive but not with someone who was negative, I decided that would be a good opportunity to discuss the double standard and the undetectable=untransmittable principle."
The Undetectable=Untransmittable, or U=U, campaign has been an influential movement based on CDC-backed scientific evidence that people with HIV can live long and healthy lives.
Essentially, an HIV-positive person on prescribed medication who has a consistently undetectable viral load has a zero percent risk of transmitting the virus during sexual intercourse, with or without a condom.
Grant concluded his point after mentioning U=U to the user.
"So if it's HIV you're concerned about, there's no risk."
"Just pointing out there's no need to use a condom just bc someone is poz. Strictly HIV-speaking."
Grant was relieved the Scruff user took the information to heart. Others might not have responded as favorably.
"I was happy his response was positive because people can be really combative online and especially when they get a health lesson they didn't ask for."
Twitter users praised Grant for his teachable moment after sharing the screenshots of his convo.
@urdadssidepiece Doing the lord’s work!— Pumpkin Spice Scott-e (@Pumpkin Spice Scott-e) 1570511301.0
@urdadssidepiece I know U=U is important and a great teaching moment But my first reaction every time I see it onl… https://t.co/nYLvx5Hrgi— 👻BooGene👖 (@👻BooGene👖) 1570546375.0
@urdadssidepiece You're absolutely spot on. 💪👏👍 This info may seem obvious but so many people out here don't have it.— Positively Alive (@Positively Alive) 1570640269.0
@urdadssidepiece First time I see one of these conversations actually go well.— s i m o n (@s i m o n) 1570537596.0
@urdadssidepiece I am so turned on right now. Advocacy is SUCH a turn on 😍😍😍— Ryan Kolman (@Ryan Kolman) 1570585971.0
"Apps like Scruff are perfectly situated for HIV education in various capacities. I'm glad I could engage in a respectful and productive conversation with him."
@elevenothree In my experience, most guys are willing to learn if you approach it gently (in retrospect I would’ve… https://t.co/7DSBGHBhks— grant 🎃 (@grant 🎃) 1570539666.0
Grant told Pink News that providing people a space to learn the facts can make a difference.
"There have definitely been times I've jumped to anger over a stigmatizing statement without assessing level of HIV education first. Knowledge is not as widespread as it should be."
Despite information being readily available on Google, Grant said some people still don't know where to start and are too intimidated to ask their healthcare providers with questions concerning PrEP, about U=U, or what "undetectable" means.
But to continue being ignorant is irresponsible.
"People living with HIV shouldn't be the only ones doing the education!"
"I can usually do a good job detecting when someone might hold stigmatising beliefs about HIV based on what they say to me online."
"When this happens, I tend to probe a bit and then see if I can engage in a conversation about HIV prevention/treatment like I did in this instance."
Still, many poz people continue facing discrimination like Tim, a 29-year-old trading manager from Leicester, who was interrogated on how he became positive.
Well sadly this is still a thing. Why on earth this person has so much hate in their life? I simply said "thankyou"… https://t.co/3C2CMXWGQz— Tim G (@Tim G) 1569744714.0
@Timmy_G123 The community is filled with ignorance, abusive behaviour, and bigotry... such a shame those things wer… https://t.co/ts43nOH6so— Danny Tokay Reid (@Danny Tokay Reid) 1569769720.0
Pioneering HIV campaigner and AIDSmap executive director Matthew Hodson told Pink News there is still a stigma attached with those living with HIV, which makes it harder for them to disclose their status.
"When someone is cruel or abusive in return, it only makes it harder for people to disclose in future. "Rejecting sexual partners because they've told you that they are living with HIV is not an effective prevention strategy."
There are many political, and systemic barriers preventing people from being meaningfully informed about HIV and thereby perpetuating the stigma.
Empower yourself with knowledge. To learn more about U=U and why it is so important, go to Prevention Access Campaign website.
Have you listened to the first season of George Takei's podcast, 'Oh Myyy Pod!'?
In season one we explored the racially charged videos that have taken the internet by storm.
We're hard at work on season two so be sure to subscribe here so you don't miss it when it goes live.
Here's one of our favorite episodes from season one. Enjoy!