|The fight against the spread of HIV amongst men who have sex with men is still the most important crisis we face in the glbt community - with increasing levels of other STDs, breast cancer amongst lesbians and homophobia all running neck and neck for second equal place.
So it's good to note any progress, such as has been made in recent weeks by the NZ Dating website. The NZ AIDS Foundation has for over a year now struggled to ensure that men who hook up through the largely straight environment of NZ Dating are exposed to responsible, helpful, relevant and well-targeted messages reinforcing the dangers of contracting HIV and the advantages of a commitment to safe sex. Short of paying top dollar for the privilege of placing watered-down, straight-friendly ads, the Foundation has not had much luck in encouraging NZ Dating's owners and managers to become part of the ethos of proactive safe-sex promotion.
But, as concern has risen month by month in the gay community, NZ Dating seems to have started to acknowledge the role it plays in facilitating men to pop their dicks up each others' bums, and the fact that some of those dicks can convey the debilitating and deadly virus which causes AIDS. NZ Dating's programmers have found a way of including a small message directing men who identify as gay and are open about looking for sexual encounters to the AIDS Foundation's online resources. A corner appears to have been turned. It's a start, and NZ Dating are to be congratulated for taking their first step along a journey the gay community started out on over 20 years ago. There is much more that NZ Dating can do to prove that it is a responsible corporate citizen, initiatives which will not affect its bottom line and will not affront the apparently delicate sensibilities of its straight clientele. We're sure the NZ AIDS Foundation will have a few suggestions for refining and improving NZ Dating's sense of community spirit.
GayNZ.com has played a part in bringing to public awareness the life-saving assistance NZ Dating has not been providing, and attempts by our News team to discuss their attitudes to this issue with the owners of the site to account have uncovered some rather strange, cloak and dagger-ish aspects of the site. For instance, Wellington lawyer Nigel Hughes, the only director/shareholder we could initially identify, turns out to be only a trustee shareholder, with the implication being that he neither has responsibility for the running of NZ Dating, nor benefits materially from its operation. Mr Hughes objected to being described as responsible for the site or as benefiting in a 'fiduciary' sense from its operation, and after re-considering his apparent role we apologise to him for suggesting he lines his own pockets directly at the expense of men who are having unsafe sex with men.
But the question still hanging in the air is: who is in fact responsible for it? Who has been happy to make money out of an environment used by gay men with only the barest nod to supporting the health and well-being of those endangered men? GayNZ.com has asked Mr Hughes to identify the owners who have been so lax in demonstrating civic responsibility but suddenly communication has stopped. Even the AIDS Foundation apparently can only contact the operators of the site through middlemen and third parties. To our knowledge no one has ever gone on the record as taking responsibility for NZ Dating or its policies vis a vis helping keep its gay clientele stay alive and well. It's all shadows and mirrors. Strange. Jay Bennie - 20th September 2007