What happens when guys on Grindr come out as HIV-positive? They get a range of reactions from thirsty fellow cock hounds. Curiosity to anger to paranoia.
A handful of men who include "poz" in their list of Grindr Tribes discussed the challenges it presents, why they did it and how guys react to it on the cruising app. It's not always a negative experience, says 31-year-old Jonathan from Knoxville.
"So for me, it's actually acted as a cock funnel and I got more after putting it on my profile than I did before," he says.
Jonathan says he's included his HIV status in his profile on Grindr since he first started using it last November. He's been HIV-positive for about five years.
For him, it's a decision rooted in being open with potential sex partners.
"I'm sorta paranoid about someone claiming I didn't tell them and calling the cops and that whole thing. I've known people that have had that happen before, and it hasn't always ended well. Anybody you piss off can go back and claim you had sex with them without disclosing, and how would you prove otherwise?," he says.
In his home state of Tennessee, like in Georgia, it's a felony for HIV-positive people to have sex with someone without first disclosing their status. A metro Atlanta man was recently convicted on two counts of failing to disclose his HIV status before sex.
"If I say I am poz on Grindr and A4A and everywhere else, then if someone falsely claims that I didn't tell them, it should be easier for me to prove that I did, since it's all over my profiles, and plenty of people in town could say they've seen it," Jonathan says.
Kristopher, a 24-year-old Atlanta man, says he added "poz" to his Grindr profile in 2010, about a week after finding out he is HIV-positive.
"I put my status on my Grindr because I wanted to be upfront and honest with those I chat with," he says.
But it's also a defense mechanism to ward off guys who aren't poz-friendly.
"Generally, the reaction I have gotten is thanking me for my honesty but I also get unneeded and often quite personal questions such as 'how I got it' or asking 'do you know who gave it to you?' As a greeting I find these kinds of questions rather rude as it is no one's business how or who I got it from," Kristopher says.
Like Kristopher, 38-year-old Atlanta guy Michael says including "poz" in his profile lets others know before they even message him. In two years of sporadically using Grindr, he's always included his HIV status in his profile.
"For me it just cuts down on some of the questions that are asked when talking to guys, lets them know more about me and they can make a more informed decision," he says.
All three men say that being open about their HIV status on Grindr leads to questions. Sometimes, so many questions that they feel like an informal counselor. And what they get asked can be surprising.
"As hard as it is to believe, I do occasionally get guys that will message me, 'What is poz?' Go figure," Michael says.
Jonathan says he urges guys seeking advice to get tested and ask lots of questions at the testing center. But he's got a limit to replying to the questions.
"It's actually kinda scary the questions some of them ask, how much people on Grindr don't know about HIV and how it can be transmitted. I try to be polite and tell them to go get tested and ask lots of questions, things like that. One, because I'm not an HIV counselor, and two, because I'm already busy looking for dick and don't have time to texty-sit some guy through an HIV diagnosis," he says.
But the reactions on Grindr can also be harsh.
"I have gotten one or two messages vilifying me for even looking for fun with people. Once I got told, while traveling home to Atlanta from Pittsburgh, that it should be illegal for poz people to even have sex. Of course this person had a blank profile," Kristopher says.
Jonathan says most HIV-negative guys he encounters on Grindr are polite when they aren't interested in chatting. Or at least try to be.
"Some can be dicks though, but they probably are because they're assholes in general, not specifically towards me," he says. "Some are actually trying to be nice, and don't realize they're even being an asshole: 'Hey man hot pic, too bad you got AIDS though I'd totally fuck you.' How do you even respond to that?"
Including "poz" in his profile hasn't hindered his cruising, Kristopher says. And in some cases, it helps weed through potential hook-ups.
"I don't think putting my status on my profile has hindered me from finding people to play or chat with. I am very selective who I play with anyway and it's one those things that I make sure the other person understands before I go any further," Kristopher says.
"Though I will say, sometimes I feel I get ignored or blocked because of my status. But oh well, it saves me the time and energy. If someone is so ignorant or fearful that they will get HIV from just chatting with someone or blocking someone with HIV makes the problem disappear, then I feel those people are rather sad and need to get educated," he adds.