This article was published on November 18th, 2015
It’s probably one of the most prolific acronyms on gay dating apps. “DDF,” sometimes followed by “u b 2.” It stands for “drug and disease free” and it’s both common and odious. If followed by “you be too,” it is very overtly stigmatizing towards HIV-positive guys. However, even alone, it’s very problematic so let’s break down why that is.
Firstly, it’s vague. What diseases is the person talking about? Does he just mean HIV? Does he mean all STIs? Or is he even talking about non-communicable diseases?
Now assuming it relates to STIs, it’s a relatively useless piece of information. For most of the minor infections, like gonorrhea, they are so easily transmitted that no one can actually be certain they don’t have one. When was your last test for those infections? How many partners did you have just before that test and how many have you had since? Are you DDF on Monday but not on Tuesday when you see the discharge coming out of your penis?
Since these minor infections are easily transmitted through both oral and anal sex and some, like syphilis, can still be easily transmitted when using condoms, all of your recent sexual activity counts. For some of the other infections, such as HPV or herpes, public health authorities do not suggest testing for these. So it’s unlikely this guy knows whether he has herpes or HPV. In other words, very few guys can be certain they’re without an STI at any point in time.
If the guy is mostly focused on HIV, what matters is transmissibility, not whether you are HIV-positive or not. Guys who know they are HIV-positive and are on treatment are not the guys who are transmitting HIV. In fact, the guys who think they are HIV-negative but have recently seroconverted account for the vast majority of transmissions. So the irony is it’s the guys who say they’re “DDF” that are spreading HIV, not the guys who know they have this “disease.” So unless the guy with the DDF profile is meaning that he’s dangerous for your health, it’s not a wise approach to sexual health. In fact, it shows the guy’s ignorance when it comes to sexual health and just how dangerous this guy may be. More troublesome is the fact that DDF perpetuates the idea that HIV-positive guys who know their status are transmitting HIV – this is an idea that is false, stigmatizing, contrary to science, and is helping to spread the epidemic.
Another problem is the fact that this acronym puts together drug use with what is a chronic health condition. Most people think that drug addiction is bad and this phrase makes a link between HIV-positive guys and drug addiction. It combines what is a behavioral issue with a health condition. It creates an environment in the gay dating world that not having HIV is good and the norm.
Which leads to how it reinforces HIV stigma. It focuses on their virus, not them as a whole person, and helps to mark them out as undesirable. This has a deeply negative effect on the mental health of poz guys, particularly those who have been recently diagnosed or are young. These guys are often in a fragile emotional state, feel that a disease has taken over their bodies and their lives, and this hammers home the idea that they are not welcome in the regular gay dating world anymore. These negative emotional burdens can often carry on for a life time. The acronym helps to reinforce the divisions in our community between poz and neg, a division whose time it up.
So drop it guys. Say you’re not into doing drugs with sex. Give your last testing date and that test’s results. But stop using the acronym DDF: it shows your ignorance around sexual health and acts as an attack on some of the most vulnerable members of our community.