“Positively Sexy Guys.” That’s the tag line that’s meant to attract a host of members to the Web’s newest HIV-positive social networking site, Volttage.com. But sexy, HIV+ men aren’t the only things that separate this site from others – its creation is meant to combat stigma and to create a database of information, support and resources for gay men who are a part of the international HIV-positive community.
As a first-of-its kind social networking website, Volttage.com will offer gay men living with HIV a place to develop and foster friendships and relationships with other members, while also learning about HIV/AIDS, medical advances and other relevant, up-to-date health and lifestyle information. Similarly to other sites like it, Volttage.com certainly offers the possibility for romantic encounters.
“Sex sells,” says Jack Mackenroth, who will appear on the site with other HIV+ models. “But we are much more than a hookup site. We provide an alternative for HIV+ men who often feel stigmatized and discriminated against on the other sites. As the site develops and grows, we will incorporate features like forums and blogs that will strengthen a sense of community and acceptance.”
Volttage.com is also different from other sites with sexual content because it does not ask members to divulge their HIV status though it is clear that the site is for HIV+ men and their supporters.
“We take the stance that everyone should assume their partner is HIV positive and proceed accordingly,” explains Mackenroth. “Asking someone their status is rather pointless, as people may not know or even lie about it to avoid rejection. We encourage members to be out and proud but we understand that the stigma can be prohibitive so members control all of their own content. I hope that the sense of community will help members ‘come out’ about their status over time.”
“Every week I get about a dozen emails and Facebook messages from HIV-positive guys who want dating advice and often feel tainted and unlovable. They think their dating life is over. I never have an easy answer for them. In our culture it seems like the responsibility of disclosure is always on the person with HIV, when in reality everyone is responsible for protecting themselves. The world is becoming more and more intertwined with the internet, and dating is no exception. Meeting guys online is especially attractive to HIV-positive guys because it’s an easy way to be upfront about your status without having “the conversation.”
“Well I strongly believe that visibility is a powerful tool in gaining acceptance. All of our models are HIV-positive and one of my goals is to show that men can be HIV-positive and sexy. I’m not glorifying HIV but I’m highlighting the truth. As more men join and check out the site they will see that they are not alone and hopefully it will have a ripple effect. I know from other sites that there are already a lot of guys that are not ashamed of their status. We already have over 1000 guys signed up and we haven’t even launched yet. As our membership grows we will see that HIV-positive men come in all shapes, sizes and colors and hopefully we can break down stereotypes and lead by example.”
With free profiles on Volttage.com, members will have the opportunity to communicate with like individuals. Volttage.com will include desktop and mobile versions of the site and use geo-location, to help members find similar individuals nearby.
A staff physician, New York-based Dr. Frank Spinelli, will answer frequently asked health questions and update monthly blogs.
During the beta phase Volttage is totally free and a mobile version of the site is coming soon.
Volttage.com has already had a ton of press after only 48 hours online.
Please check out the FREE site at Volttage.com