Posted by pozlife on April 27, 2006
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Bugchasers are generally looked upon with disdain from the gay
community as being delusional or simply not understanding that modern antiviral therapy is extremely expensive, can still have painful and unpleasant side-effects, and does not cure or ultimately stop the progression of the disease. Further, similar to the existence of NAMBLA,
it is feared by the gay community at large that the behaviours of
bugchasers may contribute to a public perception that the practice is
common or encouraged by all gay people, and would thus cause further
ill-will towards them.
Writer/director Daniel Bort made a 2003 short film called Bugchaser, which premièred at the 16th Annual Austin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, on the subject, shot mainly in New York sex clubs. In an interview with the Austin Chronicle, he explained: “The
matter-of-fact declarations of a string of articulate, apparently
nonsensical people … affected me tremendously. I had to find out
the reasons why such individuals will seek suicide in this almost
symbolic way.” At the Austin G&L Film Festival, the film was shown with an accompanying documentary The Gift by Louise Hogarth.
Also in 2003, Rolling Stone magazine printed an article by a freelance journalist Gregory Freeman
entitled “Bug Chasers: The men who long to be HIV+”, which provoked a
storm of controversy, mainly for the statistics given in the article,
which suggested that the practice might be relatively common. There
seems to be little evidence, however, that bugchasing is the practice
of anything but a very small minority. The reliability of that article
is also questioned, as it cited only two sources. One, who claimed that
as many as 25% of HIV+ men had contracted it on purpose, gave his
information anonymously. The other source was a doctor who, when
confronted, denied the quotes attributed to him in the article.
“In private sex clubs across the U.S. men gather for a chance to
participate in what is called Russian Roulette. Ten men are invited,
nine are HIV-, one is HIV+. The men have agreed to not speak of AIDS,
nor HIV. They participate in as many unsafe sexual encounters with each
other as possible, thus increasing their chances to receive “the bug.”
These are the men known as ‘Bug Chasers.'” 
The issue is, more recently, being taken seriously by medical health promotion bodies, such as the Centers for Disease Control, which hosted a workshop by Dr Michael Graydon of Carleton University, Ottawa, on the topic at the 2004 National STD Prevention Conference.
Bugchasers – myth or reality?
Positive Nation – September 10, 2003
Gus Cairns, Editor in Chief
I was logged on to a gay website recently – it may have been
gay.com, I can’t remember – and was chatting in the HIV positive room.
A guy whose nick was something like breedmenow was going on about how
he wanted to get ‘pozzed up’, i.e. infected with HIV.
was instant. A guy who we’ll call ffskin – a pretty hardcore character
who had been exchanging steamy anecdotes with me about orgies – he was
no choirboy – fired back:
> f*** off, bugchaser
He was backed up. Other guys joined in.
> these guys are crazy
> it’s a f***** insult
> I’ve been poz for 15 yrs and if he knew what he was letting himself in for he’d shut up.
Breedmenow didn’t say another word and soon logged off. What this incident shows is:
a) yes, it’s true, some gay men out there fantasise about catching HIV
b) HIV positive guys are not necessarily interested in helping them
I’m writing this because yet another story has come out claiming that
some gay men “are actively seeking out HIV status”. Researcher Melissa
Parker – who, judging by her comments that her ‘findings’ were based on
“casual conversations with gay men over many years”, has been trawling
the same chat rooms in the name of research – told the British
Association science festival that “being diagnosed with HIV is a badge
of being truly gay.”
You can see why the mainstream media love
this sort of thing. Gay sex = HIV positive = death. Gay men are a bunch
of death-obsessed sickos, fighting to board the fast train to hell.
Where have we heard that before? Oh, only about a million times in the
last 100 years.
It’s important not to be defensive about such
claims. The reaction of certain HIV prevention agencies when confronted
with this kind of claim is to close ranks and deny that any gay man,
anywhere, at any time, has wanted to be HIV positive and maybe even
tried to catch it.
I am a counsellor as well as a journalist
and first met a young gay man who admitted he’d thought it might be
better to have HIV in 1992. “I just feel like I’ve got no direction in
life,” he said, “and I see my HIV positive friends and it, like, gives
them a kick up the ass. They feel they’ve got some meaning back,
something to live for.” He didn’t really want HIV. What he did want was
to stop feeling aimless and empty.
This isn’t a bizarre or
pathological reaction. What about the grieving lover whose boyfriend
has died, and wants to join him? What about the HIV negative guy who
can’t face 40 years of rubber-insulated sex with his positive life
partner? If these people were heterosexuals, we would be nodding sagely
and taking about ‘the difficult choices facing couples’. But if they’re
gay men they get called ‘bugchasers’.
What dear Melissa has
failed to cotton on to, however, is the difference between fantasy and
reality. The one thing chat rooms breed is imagination – great gobbets
of steaming, lurid fantasy, mined fresh from the redhot seams of the
unconscious and detailing every possible and impossible anatomical feat
it’s possible to devise.
A clue that poor, innocent Melissa
has taken fantasy for reality comes when she claims that some guys who
visit backrooms “can have 30 or 40 partners in one visit”.
that we can only reply, “In our dreams, girlfriend!” If you really got
rogered 40 times a) you’d be still at it when the cleaning lady came
round and b) you would get a teeny bit sore. What Melissa has done is
read or listened to home-made pornography and taken it for Real Sex.
People eroticise what they are afraid of. It’s a defence mechanism, and
the driving force behind S&M sex. The powerful man who gets spanked
in his French maid’s uniform and called Susan is a stereotypical
example. Fantasising about going to ‘ breeding parties’ and getting
‘pozzed up’ is a way of imagining you have control over something you
feel powerless over – avoiding HIV. That’s not to say it never, ever
happens. It is to say that 99% of the talk of it happening is fantasy.
That some gay men do feel powerless is borne out by the most succinct
comment I ever got from a guy who claimed to be bugchasing. “You don’t
want HIV, believe me,” I said. “Why are you barebacking?”
“I’m just tired of dodging the bullet,” he said.
This is the crucial distinction to be made at the heart of the
‘bugchasing’ debate. There’s no doubt that more gay men – more people –
regardless of HIV status are having more unprotected sex. And it is
translating into more infections, with 1,700 gay ones a year reported
in the last two years as opposed to 1,400 or so throughout the 90s.
But this does not mean gay men want to get HIV. On the whole they’re
pretty aware of the concussive effect a positive diagnosis can have on
the health, the life, and the psyche.
Nor does it mean
HIV-positive gay men want to give it to them. For a start, I don’t want
to be sued. Less flippantly, my ride with HIV has not been an easy one
and if I meet some wet-behind-the-ears twink who thinks it’ll be a
breeze I put him right about it. And thirdly, as were the chatters in
the poz room, I am insulted when someone wants to use me, or rather my
virus, as an S&M accoutrement.
Gay men are catching HIV by
omission, not commission. They’re catching it because – notwithstanding
the blithe ‘condom, condom every time’ messages of the 90s -maintaining
safer sex is difficult. Sometimes it’s easier to take the risk and
think, maybe I’ll dodge the bullet this time. Sometimes it’s easier to
let things happen than ask that passion-deadening question: “are you
poz?” Or, if you have HIV, disclose it.
But it doesn’t mean
that we’re all acquiring it like the latest lifestyle accessory. We’re
catching it because we’re human. Not because we’re already sick.
Reprinted with permission from the author.
Positive Nation: The UK’s HIV and Sexual Health Magazine published by UKC
UKC (UK Coalition of People Living with HIV and AIDS)