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Bugchasing and giftgiving

Bugchasing (or bug chasing) is a slang term for a subculture of gay men who desire, and actively pursue HIV infection. Bugchasers "chase the bug" by seeking sexual partners who are HIV positive for the purpose of having unprotected sex and sero-converting; giftgivers are HIV+ men who attempt to infect bugchasers with HIV.

Bugchasing is viewed with disdain by many in the gay community who consider it a dangerous and self-destructive activity, and some may be concerned that the behaviors of bugchasers may contribute to a public perception that the practice is common or encouraged by all gay people.



Bugchasers indicate various reasons for their desire to seroconvert, most commonly a sense of inevitability and a desire to take control by being active in their seroconversion. Others indicate that bareback (unprotected) sex is more natural and more desirable.

Some bugchasers organise and participate in "bug parties" or "conversion parties," sex parties where HIV positive and negative men engage in unprotected sex, in hopes of acquiring HIV ("getting the gift").


Over the past decade, researchers have endeavored to document, explain, and look for a solution to the problem of bug chasing. Dr. DeAnn Gauthier and Dr. Craig Forsyth put the first academic article forth in 1999. They explored the emerging trend of gay men who eschew condoms and the development of a barebacking subculture. They also noted through their qualitative research that some barebackers were in search of HIV. Dr. Richard Tewksbury was one of the first researchers to acknowledge bug chasing online and that bug chasers were using the Internet to post their interests in seroconversion. In his more recent research, he gave a strong analysis of what bug chasers and gift givers resemble in their behaviors, attitudes, and demographics. Dr. Mark Blechner found that some bug chasers were lonely and alienated, and saw HIV as a path to becoming part of a community that elicits public sympathy and caretaking. Other bug chasers were so overwhelmed by the anxiety of contracting HIV that they thought it would be a relief from that anxiety to become HIV-positive and "get it over with." And most recently, Dr. David Moskowitz and Dr. Michael Roloff attempted to quantitatively explain why bug chasers chase HIV. They claimed that individuals who look for HIV are more likely sex addicts. These individuals have exhausted the sexual high they previously derived by performing other sexual risk taking behaviors, and now turn to bug chasing to achieve the risk-oriented high.

All research mentioned here has been cited below.

Medical response

Bugchasing has, more recently, been taken more seriously by medical health promotion bodies, such as the Centers for Disease Control, which hosted a workshop on the topic, hosted by Dr Michael Graydon of Carleton University, Ottawa, at the 2004 National STD Prevention Conference.

Bugchasing in mainstream media

The bugchasing/giftgiving phenomenon gained press coverage - and notoriety - after Rolling Stone magazine printed an article in 2003 by a freelance journalist, Gregory Freeman, entitled "Bug Chasers: The men who long to be HIV+". The article provoked a storm of controversy, primarily because - based on the statistics in the article - it suggested that the practice might be relatively common.[citation needed] The reliability of that article has since been questioned, as it cited only two sources. One source, 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 quotations attributed to him in the article.[citation needed]

Writer Daniel Hill outlined a scenario where such behavior might occur: "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.'" [1]

Writer/director Daniel Bort made a 2003 short film on the subject called Bugchaser, which premièred at the 16th Annual Austin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and was 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.

HIV positive man Ricky Dyer, who investigated the apparent bug chasing phenomenon for a 2006 BBC programme,I love being HIV, said that an air of complacency about the realities of living with the virus may be one reason why infection rates have been rising. [2] However, the BBC also described bugchasing as more internet fantasy than reality, saying that, "Dyer finds that the overwhelming majority of the talk is pure fantasy." The article also quotes Will Nutland, head of health promotion at Terrence Higgins Trust, as saying, "The concepts of 'gift giving' and 'bug chasers' are definitely based more in fantasy than reality" as well as Deborah Jack, chief executive of the National AIDS Trust saying, "There is very little evidence of people trying to get infected with HIV."

Bugchasing in popular culture

  • Alan Bowne's play Beirut features a heterosexual character willing to be infected with HIV.
  • Queer as Folk (US TV Series), Episode 410 includes a character that seeks to be infected with HIV. The character states that his motivation for doing so is to become "free", in other words to be rid of the constant worry of contracting AIDS; and it is even implied that the character sees this as a spiritually fulfilling decision, much to the horror of the HIV+ man he is attempting to convince to give him the disease. He is refused and subsequently attends a conversion party.
  • Steven Fry's BBC documetary HIV and me features the story of a 19 year old male who actively sought to be infected with HIV by having group anal sex with five HIV positive men, including using an anal plug afterwards to retain the semen within the anus.
  • The BugChasers, a dancetheater by Octavio Campos and Camposition based on the phenomena of bugchasing and interviews with men seeking to become infected, premiered in Miami at the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts on October 25, 2007. The piece immediately caused controversy in the local gay community, but played to sold out houses.

See also

  • Barebacking

Further reading

  • Blechner, M. (2002) Intimacy, pleasure, risk, and safety. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy, 6:27-33.
  • Crossley, M. L. (2004). Making sense of ‘barebacking’: Gay men’s narratives, unsafe sex and the ‘resistance habitus’. British Journal of Social Psychology, 43, 225-244.
  • Gauthier, D. K., & Forsyth, C. J. (1999). Bareback sex, bug chasing, and the gift of death. Deviant Behavior, 20, 85-100.
  • Hatfield, K. (2004). A Quest for belonging: Exploring the story of the bug chasing phenomenon. Paper presented at the National Communication Association Conference, Chicago, Illinois.
  • Moskowitz, D. A., & Roloff, M. E. (2007). The ultimate high: Sexual addiction and the bug chasing phenomenon. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 14(1), 21-40.
  • Moskowitz, D. A., & Roloff, M. E. (2007). The existence of a bug chasing subculture. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 9, 347-358.
  • Tewksbury, R. (2003).Bareback sex and the quest for HIV: assessing the relationship in internet personal advertisements of men who have sex with men. Deviant Behavior, 25, 467-482.
  • Tewksbury, R. (2006). “Click here for HIV”: An analysis of internet-based bug chasers and bug givers. Deviant Behavior, 27, 379-395.

Fictional movie:

  • Bugchaser at the Internet Movie Database
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Bugchasing_and_giftgiving". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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