A recent article in Rolling Stone, by Gregory Freeman, sent out some shocking vibes in the gay community.
Everyone from Dan Savage, to Andrew Sullivan, to Matt Drudge has been talking about it. Have you heard the figure that's getting everyone so up in arms? Freeman's article, which is about the complementary phenomenons of 'bug chasing' and 'gift giving,' says that around 25% of all new HIV infections were acquired on purpose by gay men, dubbed 'bug chasers' who set out to deliberately become infected (gift giving refers to HIV-positive men who knowingly 'share' the virus with others).
You can read Dan Savage in the Reader or Andrew Sullivan on Salon.com and see why this figure is so ridiculous and unsupported. It's based on extremely faulty research that any self-respecting journalist would be ashamed to use. It's probably a ridiculously inflated number.
But the thing that concerns me is that, inflated or not, it IS a number. Bug chasing has been a term that's been bandied about for years. On Web sites such as barebackcity.com, you can even find people placing personal ads, looking to be infected. There are bug chasers … no one knows how many or to what extent this phenomenon exists (despite Freeman's claim, which has since been pretty much retracted). The question that comes up whenever anyone sees this figure (anyone who doesn't consider himself a bug chaser, that is) is WHY? For all the twisted logic behind it, I can hypothesize the rationale behind trying to get yourself infected with HIV on purpose. It removes the uncertainty. There's no more worrying about what the results of your HIV test will be. Knowing is better than living in fear, and living in fear is what most of us do, because even the most careful among us can and do get infected. We slip. We trust the wrong person. We get drunk or high on tina and do things we wouldn't do when we're in our right minds. Get yourself infected and you no longer have to worry.
Even though we're hearing more and more about re-infection with different strains of HIV, we can feel free to throw caution to the wind, and bareback … just as God intended. Natural, see? It makes a certain sort of sense. But the same logic would have you shooting yourself up with cancer, just so you don't have to worry about getting it. Hey, you might as well infect yourself with herpes and genital warts while you're at it, too. Free to be you and me.
Another reason: there are treatments now for HIV. So, why worry? Pop a couple of pills and you're good to go. But just ask anybody with serious lipodystrophy or med-induced power diarrhea what a picnic treatment can be.
Another rationale for bug chasing is the erotic thrill one gets from getting HIV-infected sperm shot up their ass. That one I can't quite comprehend, unless it's sort of like the ultimate masochist trip.
Anyone reading this ever engaged in bug chasing or are actively seeking the gift right now? E-mail me at email@example.com . You might be the 'seed' for a future column … anonymously, of course.