Along with race, how people treat HIV-positive people on dating apps has come under increasing scrutiny.Scruff has approached this by creating a “poz” community, as well as an up-front profile box in which people can state their preferred sexual safety practices: condoms; Pr EP (taking the drug Truvada, which prevents HIV infection); or Treatment as Prevent (Tas P), where HIV-positive men are effectively uninfectious thanks to antiretroviral medication, which makes the levels of virus in the blood so low as to be “undetectable”.
It is already proving popular.“Gay guys are extraordinarily social when we travel,” explains Silverberg.
“One of the light bulb moments we had as we were designing this feature was that it’s now 2016 and we need to not be ashamed of sex or of sexual behaviours,” says Silverberg.“Especially in the US [where there is] a puritanical attitude toward sex, and [so we thought] part of what we can do is to normalise conversations about sexual safety practices because we think that’s going to make our community stronger, less judgmental, and safer.”Skandros also sees this as an opportunity to inform the uninformed, and in particular young men whose schoolteachers are unlikely to have given a blow-by-blow explanation of Pr EP and Tas P.“We are big proponents of Pr EP,” says Skandros. There is a momentary pause.“I will tell you I’ve been on Pr EP for a year and a half and for me it’s another layer of protection and it’s opened up my sex life…” He starts to laugh, as who-knows-what sexual memories are projecting onto his retinas.
“…many ways that…before Pr EP was….” Skandros swerves away from specifics before deciding on, “It’s given me a lot more confidence.”He stops again and looks up.“This is something I’ve never spoken about before. Especially in New York I feel like we’re in a sexual revolution because of Pr EP and I’m just seeing within my circle of friends and other gay men there’s this confidence and barrier that’s been broken down because of Pr EP.
Should, therefore, a hookup app that prides itself on inclusivity facilitate this?
“A person’s choice of partner is deeply personal,” says Silverberg.
Buzz Feed News puts it to Silverberg and Skandros that some people see Scruff’s function that allows members to filter by race as colluding with sexual racism, enabling and compounding racial stereotypes.“Those are legitimate critiques,” Silverberg begins before changing course.