This 25-year-old man from Melbourne, Australia, is like any other youngster his age. But Campbell Clarkson is also a pioneer as he has broken down the walls of stigma that HIV positive people face on online dating sites. Clarkson, HIV and PrEP Advocate, invented the symbol [+u] which is today widely being used on dating apps and by people on their social media accounts. The symbol means "positive, undetectable" and signifies a person being HIV positive. In an exclusive chat with International Business Times India (IBT), Clarkson talks about how he came up with this symbol and more.
IBT: Did you always use online dating sites?
I was lucky enough that online dating apps weren't really around when I was dating; I started using them when I moved to Sydney, Audtralia (from New Zealand) four years ago as a way to make friends. I'm still partial to meeting people face-to-face for a drink. I have met most of my partners from online.
IBT: What were people's reactions when you said you were HIV positive?
I was lucky enough to be living in Sydney when I got my diagnosis. Sydney has had a pretty good reputation when it came to HIV/AIDS historically. However, I received a lot of comment and stigma around my age. A lot of people still don't realise how far medication has come. I received comments like, "I dont want you to give me AIDS". But at the same time a lot of people were supportive that someone who was 22 would be open about their status and be willing to share that with the world.
IBT: What compelled you to create the symbol [+u]?
The idea was birthed out of a quiet night at home. I really just had a fresh perspective and decided to match the medical advances with the way I was open on the dating sites.
IBT: How did you come up with it?
It was really simple, just a matter of placing a u to an already existing [+] to make [+u]. I then approached parts of the HIV community through a Facebook group called The Institute of Many and it took off from there.
IBT: Did you ever think it would now be part of dating apps?
No, never....I was still dealing with my diagnosis when I decided to be open and create the symbol but by being open it helped me deal with my diagnosis. Again not every country in the world is as accepting as what Australia is. Looking back now, being 25, I am proud just to make one person's life with HIV slightly better and to educate those that are still stuck in the 80s.
IBT: With the symbol, has dating become easier for you?
Easy would be the wrong word, but it has simplified my dating life for sure, in terms of not having to explain things over and over again and at the same time getting rid of ignorant people that aren't open to change. Dating in 2016 is difficult online for most people especially if you were around before smartphones and apps.
IBT: What's your advice to people who are HIV positive and use online dating sites or apps?
You aren't alone - when sometimes it can feel like the end of the world, we now have the tools to end HIV. As Ban Ki-Moon from the UN says, 'Stigma is the silent killer'. Speak up no matter how small or large you think your voice is.