A gay First Dates contestant has said he had to disclose he is HIV positive to his date because he was a ‘risk’.
Alex Causton-Ronaldson, who is undetectable, signed up for the popular Channel 4 blind date show two months after the end of his relationship in August 2015.
The 27-year-old marketing director applied online, received a phone call, and was put on file by the show’s producers. They also invited him for an interview on camera, and at no point did he share his HIV status.
Two weeks later, he received a call to say they had found the ‘perfect man’ for him. However, the final stage was a phone call with a psychotherapist to clear him to be mentally able to appear on television. He says this was a ‘confidential’ conversation unless he revealed anything that deemed him ‘high risk’ to appear on the show.
Causton-Ronaldson was asked if he was on any medication, and said he was on Raltegravir and Truvada – antiretrovrial medication – revealing his HIV positive status. A day later, he claimed a member of the show’s production team phoned him and said the psychotherapist had passed the information on in a breach of confidentiality.
He claimed a production team member said he would need to disclose his HIV status to his dinner partner before the show, ruining the idea that it would be a ‘blind date’, as the Channel 4’s legal team considered him a ‘risk’.
‘I was in shock – I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,’ he told Buzzfeed News.
‘I said [to the production team member], “There are three presumptions here. 1) That I’m not undetectable. I am, but no one thought to ask me that and therefore I have the right to disclose to whoever I want to. 2) That I’m going to fancy him. 3) That I’m going to have sex with him without a condom”.’
And then when the production team member refused to back down, Causton-Ronaldson said he would refuse to do the show entirely.
‘I said, “Fine, I’m not going to do the show then”,’ he said. ‘She played the guilt tactics on me: “Oh, your date’s going to be so disappointed. He’s so excited to meet you. He’s gonna be gutted. It’s such a shame. Are you sure?” And I said, “Categorically, I am not doing this if you make me disclose beforehand.”.’
With aid from the Terrence Higgins Trust, he informed the production company that he was being discriminated against and is under no obligation to disclose his HIV status.
Later, the production team member phoned back and said he could go on without revealing he is HIV positive.
Cuaston-Ronaldson’s episode aired in April of this year.
Channel 4 says all consultations between contributors and the psychotherapist could be discussed with the production team unless the contributor says it should be kept in confidence. The broadcaster also says Causton-Ronaldson had a second opportunity to alert the psychotherapist if he wanted anything to remain confidential and he raised nothing.
However, they admit a conversation about Causton-Ronaldson’s HIV status took place between him and the production team.
A Channel 4 spokesman said: ‘The welfare and privacy of all our contributors is of paramount importance. Anyone who has disclosed their HIV status on the programme has done so through personal choice and not at the request of the production team.’