In the early 1980s, a number of young men died of infections that were usually only seen in immune-compromised patients.
Over the next several years, the HIV virus was identified, characterized, and found to be an RNA virus that was only transmitted by intimate contact, most commonly sex and shared needles.
The public health response to the epidemic seemed obvious at the time, and a campaign to educate people at risk about the use of condoms and clean needles was launched.
While many dating sites and apps, like the massive Gay.com, offer a chance to join an HIV-positive (or supportive) community, a handful of boutique websites cater exclusively to people who are HIV-positive and those who want to date them, with options for straight, gay, and bisexual singles.
Here are some faves: Fashion designer and model Jack Mackenroth, who rose to fame as the first openly HIV-positive contestant on Project Runway (and appeared on the cover of HIV Plus in 2013), launched Volttage in October 2012.
"Met a truly exceptional guy on this site back in August and am now off the market! I'm with the best girlfriend I've ever had and owe it all to the site and their willingness to provide the community with a free dating service. From a very happy guy in San Diego."—Guy39sd "I just wanted to say thanks!
"—Russ "I would like to thank you for this website. We have so much in common and the love we have is real. I love frank and he loves me equally."—Isaiah "POZ personals ROCKS!
I've been a POZ Personals member for a few years now, and this past December finally met a really special guy. And it wouldn't have happened without your website. Perhaps we would have never crossed paths without this infection.
I continue to appreciate the POZ News Desk articles, but am especially grateful that you gave me the opportunity to meet the love of my life. We may hear wedding bells in the near future."—Tonya "Thanks to POZ, finally found my soulmate.....
In addition, a feature called Volttage Buzz provides users with news related to HIV activism, health, politics, and more.
There will eventually be a mobile version, Mackenroth says.
Unlike some other gay matchmaking portals, Volttage does not ask its members, over 11,000 and growing, to disclose their status; the assumption is that everyone is either positive or positive-friendly.