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April 4th, 2010

Tracking the elusive “bug chasers” of HIV

“I (have) always hated any suggestion that AIDS was a gift. A Mercedes is a gift.”
— Mark S. King, “A Place Like This,” pg. 180

I must admit my belief that bug-chasers are an extremely elusive and exotic form of pervert that aren’t as much seen as talked about. For the mercifully uninformed, “bug chasers” is a term describing, now hold on to your lunch here, people (typically referencing gay men) who are on a deliberate hunt to become infected with HIV.

bugchasersThey have other snappy monikers (they are gay, after all), for themselves and their (partners in crime?) cohorts, such as “gift seekers” and “gift givers.” “Bug parties” were whispered about for a time, always “a friend of someone I know” having attended some sexual soiree in which a negative partner had unprotected sex with a group of HIV positive partners. And you thought Tupperware parties were retro(virus)!

And now for the truth as I believe it to be: this is all complete bullshit. This is sexual urban legend of the highest degree, fueled not by facts but by a perfectly human search for a fantasy taboo to cross. In other words, for sexed up gay guys who need a jolt of something darkly sick to get their putter fluttering because their meth-fueled fantasies are running on empty. True, there was a flurry of psycho-fantasy about seroconversion years ago (and even a controversial documentary, “The Gift,” about the practice), but by and large I believe this has been over-hyped.

Certainly, and as always, there are more scholarly papers on the psycho-social co-factors associated with gay men who wish to become infected, mainly along the lines of “poz guys get more attention and better health care and fund raisers and wile away their days at the gym…” These simplified views of poz life actually have some traction, but as walking near-death experiences from the 80’s like me can attest, we’re very much back in the world of the living and have bills to pay again, just like the rest of you.

Dodo_birdTrust me here, the bug chasing fantasy has a very limited shelf life. You can only live it out… once. And so it exists primarily right there, in their dirty little heads or as online taboo chatter for guys who aren’t capable of becoming newly infected any more than your cherry can be popped twice. Consider bug chasing a classic form of sexual Darwinism. The odd breed tends to die off, making bug chasers the, yes, DoDo birds of the late 20th century.

I’ve been in the company of guys whose heads have wandered off in that direction. Those who entertain this notion typically fall within two categories: poz guys who are lying about being HIV negative because they are fetishizing the virus, and guys who were negative “the last time they checked,” meaning, they’re not. And no, I’ve never indulged someone’s wish to get “pretend infected,” thank you.

But hey, hold on, because if you’re a pervy poz guy looking for viral assault you’re still in luck. April is National STD Awareness Month, and there’s a dazzling array of infections and diseases to choose from. Chlamydia, anyone?

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