THREE people from the North-East have helped create the UK's first dating website for people living with sexually transmitted diseases.

The idea for the website - www.datepositive.net - came from a Tyneside woman who feared she would find it difficult to find a new partner after she was diagnosed with genital herpes.

The woman, who wants to be anonymous, found that all of the dating and friendship websites for people with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) - such as HIV and genital herpes - were based in North America.

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The woman got together with four friends to investigate the idea of a new website for the UK and Ireland.

A few weeks ago, the website went live and the backers, including three from the Newcastle area, hope it will provide a service to thousands of people in Britain and Ireland living with STDs caused by viruses.

Sheelagh Caygill, a former internet journalist who lives in the Gateshead area, said: "We realised through her experience that there wasn't a UK site for people living with STDs such as Aids, HIV, and herpes.

"The idea isn't just about creating an online meeting place. We are providing members with information and resources and therefore have built additional sections containing support group information, news, and weblinks."

There are plans to add a forum and chatroom so people can discuss experiences and support.

The first 500 members of www.datepositive.net will receive free membership for one year.

Dr Abayomi Opaneye, consultant in genito-urinary medicine at James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, said: "I think it is a great idea. STDs caused by viruses can lead to difficulties, including psychological problems. A few of my patients with genital warts have said they have problems dating."

Michael Kay, service manager with the Middlesbrough-based HIV charity Tees Positive, said the website could be useful to people who were only comfortable dating someone with equal HIV status.

A spokeswoman for the Brook chain of advice centres said: "People who have been infected with viruses such as herpes, HIP or genital warts may find an online source of information, support and friendship to be very valuable.

"It's particularly important that the site should provide information about safer sex so that members know how to take good care of their sexual health."