With the celebration of World Aids Day on 1 December around the corner and with this year's theme being “Getting to Zero” I decided to engage some people on this topic. During one such discussion the bizarre phenomenon of deliberate HIV infection was brought to my attention. I vaguely recall hearing of this a few years ago (in 2003), but thought it was an isolated incident; with further exploration I discovered to my horror it is still being practiced. This phenomenon is called Bug Chasing.
Bug Chasing is described as a subculture of homosexual men who actively pursue sex with HIV infected people in order to get infected themselves. However, in recent times, this practice has now also spilled over to the heterosexual community. This peculiar practice has also given rise to its own terminology:
Bug Chaser:Person who deliberately attempts to contract HIV by having unprotected sex with a person or a group of people who are known or suspected to have the virus.
Gift Giver:A HIV+ person who deliberately transmits the virus to those willing to contract it.
Bug/Conversion Parties:Sex parties where unsafe sex is encouraged and where bug chasers can potentially be infected by a gift giver. At these parties there are usual only a few HIV+ participants and only the host of these parties knows of these individuals positive status.
HIV has become a manageable disease and many infected individuals live normal and healthy lives with an increased life expectancy. It no longer is the death sentence it was thought to be nearly 30 years ago. This put aside, we are all aware that there still is no cure or vaccine for this disease and many people still perish due to AIDS; with the majority of AIDS related fatalities occurring in poverty stricken countries where access to modern medicine is limited. So why would any person in their right mind want to be infected with HIV?
A variety of studies have been done on the psychological and sociological reasons for this type of behaviour. The findings on the Bug Chasers range from people with anxiety disorders that wanted to get contaminated to relieve their fear of getting infected; people doing it to get free medical care; people who felt isolated and viewed being HIV+ as a means through which they would gain acceptance and sympathy; sex addicts; and people who demonstrates sexual risk taking behaviour seeking a new thrill or sexual high.
Whatever the motivation for any person wanting to get infected I find it outrages, irresponsible and borderline criminal! How long before these individuals realize the so-called “Gift” they received have far reaching consequences and in all probability could lead to their untimely departure from this planet. It’s nothing less than suicide! The Gift Givers, in my opinion, are criminals. In many countries around the world the deliberate infection of people with HIV has been criminalized and charges of attempted murder can be filed against them. I find it unfathomable how any person could knowingly infect another person even if the recipient is a willing participant.
Having a few friends who are HIV+ and having had one friend who passed away from AIDS, I distinctly recall their reactions upon receiving their diagnoses. Not a single one of them were filled with joy upon receiving the news. Their diagnoses were followed with depression, anger and fear. One described being HIV+ as living with a time bomb inside you, never knowing when or where it will ignite. Most of my HIV+ friends have come to terms with their HIV status and live with it quite comfortably but remains aware of its potential lethal end game.
I find it quite ironic that such a practice as Bug Chasing exists in light of this years World AIDS day’s theme - Getting to Zero. Are both the Bug Chasers and Gift Givers in denial? Do they even know how many people are infected world wide and don’t have access to potentially life saving medication, how many people die of AIDS and have they ever seen the devastation of this disease during its final deadly grip? Being infected with HIV will not make them part of a special or elite brotherhood, most definitely will not help cure AIDS and not free them from the eventuality that we all face at the end of our existence.
Many people across the world are denied the basic human right to receive access to essential HIV medication and dies as a result. Therefore, it is quite disturbing that in developed countries such a flagrant disregard exists amongst people regarding their health. The fact that they deliberately infect themselves and spread a virus whilst having access to all the treatments that will keep them alive longer is not only selfish but is also destructive. There are people across the world who didn’t ask for this virus, who do not want to die, yet they will die unless granted the same opportunities and access to essential medications.
I hope participants in Bug Chasing come to realize that this “Gift” they refer to is the Gift of Death, and engaging in it is profoundly immoral, in my opinion, and only perpetuates the spread of the disease, worsening the situation and putting unnecessary strain on healthcare and pharmaceuticals making treatment inaccessible to those who are truly in dire need. Hopefully we will get to Zero one day. Perharps that one day will be the day the Bug Chasers are dead.