Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Gift of Death

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.

Till next time.

The Gift


Michael Rivers said...

It is very scary. I can't even begin to understand the chasers or the gift givers.

Pierre said...

Michael, it's frightening to say the least. How a person could do that to themselves or to another person is beyond belief. Yet, there are people like that.

I would love to get my hands on the Documentary "The Gift" the trailer of which I loaded to this post. Maybe if one watches the documentary you could get a better insight into why people do this. Reading research findings is one thing but seeing it for yourself is something completely differnt.

The Mari Rev said...

In America, knowingly being a "Gift giver" is considered a felony, like murder and punishable by law. In some cases, even unknowingly being a gift giver can be consider a criminal offense, not unlike manslaughter.
Being "bug chasing" is a fairly recent phenomenon, I cannot state definitively, but personally, I feel it is a form of "Munchhausen syndrome". This is a psychiatric disorder where a person either self inflicts physical injury or illness on themselves or fabricates symptoms of physical injury or mental illness in order to garner the attention of health professionals through treatment or hospitalization. It is a person who feels a deep emotional emptiness that they feel can be fulfilled through the attentive compassion of others.
In this case (in my opinion) people who actively try to get HIV wish to garner the attention of health care professionals, benefits given to those with HIV/AIDS and/or the compassion and attention of the gay community in general. It is a sickness that should be treated before they person gets HIV, but sadly, as in many cases, only detectable after the infection/injury has occurred. This is not however a recent phenomenon as in the last few years. I have know bug chasers as well as gift givers from has far back as the late 80's. Both have different forms of psychosis.
Gift givers, not unlike rapists or murderers, should be locked away for the safety of society.

Pierre said...

The Mari Rev, thanks for the insight as usual it’s great to hear from you.

I agree it’s a psychiatric disorder that could be very difficult to detect. I however did not see any formal diagnostic reference being made about this apart from reference made to anxiety disorder(s). I wonder why that is? Surely the DSM 4(R) or now DSM 5 should provide for some reference for a diagnosis to be made or at least for identifying the warning signs.

I am now even more flabbergasted than before with you stating that you have known about this since the 80’s. Has this really been that well hidden? It’s alarming to say the least!

ChrisJ said...

This is unreal!

Bloggers Unite has an event for World Aids Day; this article would make a great addition to it.

Pierre said...

ChrisJ, I will go visit the link.

We live in one strange world and I never seize to be amazed and sometimes shocked at what I find. I think that's why blogging is such a great medium - it provides a great platform for people to express themselves, their opinions and to educate. In the process we also find that we learn from other people's blogs, are changed by them and our horizons broaden.

I have discovered some great blogs in the last few months, and I always find myself pleasantly surprised when I visit them!

Chris said...

This kind of behavior points to a much deeper psychological problem which is under-rug-swept. We need to start listening to the people around us and allow them to be themselves instead of perpetrating a lifestyle that "requires" us to be a part of a social grouping.

Pierre said...

Chris, I agree. One of my friends stated that Bug Chasing is believed to be an urban myth in the UK. Whether that's true or not I do not know.

People's need to belong and the lengths they'll go to fit in, may be the root of the problem.

I sometimes feel we live in a society without compassion, like you said we should listen more closely to the people around us but also extend a helping hand to those in need.

HB said...

Bug Chasing have been happening in the US for many years. With new laws this subculture has gone underground making it very difficult for authorities to track down the perpetrators.

It really is of great concern that this subculture still continues spreading the virus.

I thank you Pierre for reminding us of us this. Let's hope we can stop them, educate our GLBT community and halt the spread of HIV.

Great blog post and timely with World Aids day coming up!

Pierre said...

HB, thanks. I think we have become complacent when it comes to HIV & AIDS. Maybe it's because it has been with us for so many years and the fact that we have become use to the idea. Every 1 December we observe World Aids Day, but not many people do much more for the cause beyond this.

Heather Leigh said...

Wow, I couldn't even imagine that this was going on. As someone who knows people with HIV/AIDS and the effects it has caused on their life....I couldn't even begin to imagine that ANYONE would want this. Thank you for this information. It has been rather eye-opening.

Pierre said...

Heather Leigh, it's mind boggling isn't it? We live in a strange world, where people don't always realize the consequences of their actions. Let's hope a couple of these people (Bug Chasers) come to their senses before it's too late.

Heather Leigh said...

Mind if I link this post?

Pierre said...

@ not at all, please do!

Heather Leigh said...

Ok thank you! Of course I will link back both to this post and your site. It should be published some time this week, I plan on scheduling it so I still have stuff going up while I'm in for chemo. :)

Pierre said...

My pleasure and thank you as well Heather. Good luck with the chemo, will thinking of you ;-)

Heather Leigh said...

Thanks! I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to add you to my blogroll. :)

Todd M Dobson said...

Hello Pierre,

Very elegant post and must concur with you thoughts on the matter. I hasten you to come at a slightly different conclusion that decreases the divide between where you and I may stand and the mind set of both the bug chasers as well as the gift givers.

I must agree with Chris that the Bug Chaser is suffering from low to no self esteem and in that respect, we must focus our efforts on changing the theosophical approach that has been teaching society for thousands of years that gay men and woman are the scourge of this planet. Allowing young gay men and women to come out without feeling the shame or harshness that many suffer due to even the thoughts of losing their family, their friends or their place in society. Many Bug Chasers are young and have yet to truly become at peace with who they are as individuals, including their homosexuality. If we can remove that, our greatest hurdle from the gay and lesbian community, I strongly feel we will undo much destructive behaviors that are suffered by so many within the gay community around the world.

As for the Gift Giver, I too am ashamed that this is happening, but I feel we must also understand the way those who finally find that they are one of the millions who are infected with HIV. For many they are normal persons who either took protective measures and suffered due to accidents, or in one night of ecstasy with someone, they find themselves suffering for the remainder of days. As you have indicated HIV is no longer the expeditious death sentence it once was. That does not mean it is not a difficult life regardless. Our bodies were never designed to take on a regular basis the medication that is required to maintain healthy living while infected. Side affects can still be swift and unpredictable and in some cases as debilitating as the infection itself; and that is why living with HIV still requires courage.

Those Gift Givers I fear are acting as much out of fear as they remain in pain due to their own infections. Many were not requesting nor were they risky, but it is difficult to face your own life when it takes a turn that one is unwilling to accept or become at peace with. In most cases, those who are willing to grant such an auspicious gift are dying within each day they continue to take a breath and live with their own infection. They may also be acting out of rage because the person who infected them may have dubiously taken action without warning. In any case it is not those Gift Givers that do so in a party environment that shatters the hopes of this world or the lives they take from it; but those who knowingly infect others without warning. These are the persons that I must agree deserve prosecution to the fullest extent of the law. More than any sentence they may beholden too, I would shackle them to all whom they infect. Forcing them to pay financially as well as personally for the care of every soul they knowingly infect.

HIV/AIDS is preventable and therefore it remains each of our personal responsibility to care and protect ourselves. I've met young guys who are coming to terms with their homosexuality and the don't know what we've seen or those experiences of the gay communities before ours. They don't know of the suffering and the millions of souls who could have made a difference in society, but rather their lives succumbed to pain and agony beyond any recognition due to this disease. The last time I posted to my Face Book account that every soul should be tested annually for HIV, I had straight friends tell me how they don't because they are not at risk and young gay men tell me how they know they don't have it! Ignorance is not bliss until you are forced to learn.

Pierre - exceptional post and as I said, I feel we must not take such a judgmental stance, but that posts such as this should propel everyone into acceptance: LOVE, HONOR & RESPECT every soul among us for all they can provide positively.

Your humble servant - Todd M Dobson

Pierre said...

Thanks Todd, once again a very insightful comment as usual. I agree with you on your views on both the Bug Chasers and Gift Givers. I think most of us find it very difficult to understand how both these groups of people rationalize their behavior as to us it's such a bizarre concept.

I think education and counseling is key as both a preventative measure and supporting those who are already infected. I do admit my post had somewhat of a judgmental sentiment, but I can't shy away from my initial shock and slight anger when I first learned of this phenomena.

Allot of work still needs to be done when it comes to HIV & AIDS. Many people still think it's a gay disease like you pointed out. Let's hope people start waking up to the reality that HIV & AIDS affects everyone, it does not discriminate. I think we all have a responsibility to educate those around us. It only takes one person to make a difference, and like I always, let that one person be you.

rhapsodieff said...

HIV forces you to make lifestyle choices. To survive you have be disciplined. The medications have to be taken at the right time every day without fail. This is called adherence. The health care professionals advise you to exercise and to eat nutritionally balanced meals. If you follow the advice and many HIV positive gay men do then you look very healthy. If you look happy and healthy you appear more attractive.

What is not seen is those mornings, or evenings when you take the medications with food as advised and you have what I call "a bounce". In that what has just been put in comes back out because the food you ate had something that disagreed with the medications and you end up having a conversation with the big white telephone in the bathroom. For me the trigger is usually fatty food and it can take days for things to settle again. So tuna and rice because its bland and does not cause an upset, and the virtuous circle of healthy eating is reinforced. Then there are the days when you just feel yukky because of the meds.

So in some ways the medications and associated food intolerances enforce a regime that means HIV positive guys can look "buff", "fit" etc, unfortunately this then projects an image that HIV positive guys are more attractive and therefore have more potential partners and this is a desirable state. So in the bug chasers, eyes they want to be like this. They see HIV positive guys as having more "fun".

As an HIV positive guy I am frequently "harassed" by bug chasers wanting "the gift". This seems to be the reasoning behind the desire... to look good and attract more potential partners...When in reality if they took control of their lives and ate sensibly and exercised they could achieve these ends with some self discipline.

Pierre said...

rhapsodieff, thank you so much for your comment. I and I am sure everyone that reads my blog appreciate your honesty and sharing your experience. This was something I didn't know and I can honestly say I learned something. You seem to be a good example and role model to others, would you mind sharing more of your experiences on my blog? If so, please drop my an e-mail, you can find my e-mail address on my blog profile.

Darrin said...

I've only heard of "seed" and "breed" ...terms used to infect others on purpose but without them knowing it.

Thanks for this article

Jason Shaw said...

This is a wonderful post on a horrific subject. It's been going on for sometime now and there was for a while a lot of talk that it was started as some sort of 'therapy' by one of those gay cure 'churches' affiliated to Exodus, although I can find little proof of that, it wouldn't surprise me in the least.

There have been a few cases of positive people infecting others on purpose without the other knowing, which have gone to court and have been found guilty of manslaughter here in the UK.

I think we as humans are a pretty strange bunch, we like to be healthy yet choose to do things that are not healthy, that may kill us, like smoking, drink driving, base jumping and bug chasing seems to be the most extreme of these.

And the word verification for this comment was 'comed'

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