#SexIsSocial - Define This: Bugchasing and the Quest to Acquire HIV

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#SexIsSocial - Define This: Bugchasing and the Quest to Acquire HIV

Rayne Millaray Rayne Millaray




Welcome to this week's featured SexIs article:


Define This: Bugchasing and the Quest to Acquire HIV, by fizzygato!




Have you ever heard of "bugchasers"? A very interesting concept, indeed. A bugchaser is a person who is trying to catch HIV intentionally. Some feel they're going to get it eventually, anyway, because they're gay. Others think it's one of the utmost taboo acts.

From the article:
Politically, it is significant that people are now chasing HIV. It demonstrates the breakdown of medical condition related stigma, yet begs the question, "How taboo and dangerous is HIV-- how radical is it-- if cures/'cures' for it are a commodity?"

Further, bugchasing may be a demonstration of privilege: trusting that you will be able to take care of yourself once you get HIV. After all, bugchasing is not the desire to acquire AIDS. AIDS would occur if HIV were left untreated. Similarly, bugchasing is not suicide. Some who bugchase may be suicidal, but bugchasing is not the pursuit of death or death via sexual interaction. Bugchasing is the act of pursuing HIV, which requires very specific medical treatment, such as anti-retrovirals, to keep it in check and prevent AIDS and death from happening. (There are, however, a few exceptions to this. A very limited population of people may acquire HIV but never experience any of its symptoms, even when they are not on medication.)


There's some argument for bugchasing to be considered "self harm", indicating that bugchasers should probably seek professional help. They and their supporters obviously disagree.

What do you think?

Is bugchasing the ultimate taboo?
Answers (private voting - your screen name will NOT appear in the results):
Do you know anyone who is HIV+?
3
Yes.
10
No, but I know someone who's had a scare.
5
The only experience I have with HIV+ people is in the media.
29
Other. (leave a comment)
.
What do you think about the practice of bugchasing?
1
That's kinda scary!
41
HIV's just another illness, these days, what with the awesome progress in treatment.
It depends on the reason. For example... (leave a comment)
2
..
If a person's chase is in the interest of self-harm, should a mental health professional step in?
1
Yes. Maybe they wouldn't be interested in contracting HIV if they got help.
39
No. What a person does with their body is their business.
Undecided.
2
Other (leave a comment)
1
...
If you were in a relationship with someone with HIV, would you have unprotected sex with them?
1
Yes. I enjoy being fluid bonded with my partners.
No. What if I contract the disease, and we break up?
38
Only if it was a committed, long-term relationship with little to no chance of it ending.
1
Other (explain in a comment)
5
Total votes: 179 (46 voters)
Poll is closed
03/01/2013
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Silverdrop Silverdrop
People who deliberately try to get HIV should be offered mental health treatment on the grounds that they are self-harming. They need to understand that having a chronic infection, even when treatments exist, is a BIG DEAL. If I were in a relationship with an HIV+ person, I would insist on protective sex at all times, even if I considered the relationship permanent. Because having a chronic infection is a big deal. Having to take daily medications every day is a BIG DEAL.

I have fibromyalgia. One of the drugs I use for pain is causing me cardiac problems. Because of that, I have to change my drugs, so today, I'm curled up in bed in pain. What if you contract HIV only to discover that the medication you need to keep from getting ill is something your body has trouble tolerating? What if you get a disease later in life (which will happen to most of us) that also requires daily medication? Will those medications interfere with one another?

It's a truism that you don't know what you've got till it's gone. Health is something that is valuable and to be treasured.

I left this comment on the article:

I disagree. Bugchasing is self-injury. The injury may not show, but the fact that medication has to be taken regularly from then on is proof that it exists. Someone who cuts themselves will heal, but someone who deliberately gets HIV will have their body fighting to overcome that infection for the rest of their lives.

It's also immoral. I would never condone withholding healthcare from anyone, but it does put a strain on an overburdened healthcare system to have to treat people for years or decades for an infection they could have easily avoided.

I believe that bug-chasers should be treated for potential mental health problems, hopefully before they manage to infect themselves.


The author of the article responded to my comment, but I thought I would bring the discussion here now that this thread is up.
03/01/2013
El-Jaro El-Jaro
I know a guy who intentionally caught HIV because he had other medical conditions he couldn't get taken care of.
03/01/2013
Trysexual Trysexual
I never heard of this. I heard of people intentionally spreading diseases like this, but not catching them.
03/01/2013
Ansley Ansley
I think it's sad, for starters. I think it's sad that there are men out there so terrified their sex life is going to inevitably land them with a positive diagnosis that they jump in with both feet and try to catch it. (I've read the ads on Craigslist, this isn't the first time I've heard of this.)

But, the flipside of that coin is that I also understand loving someone so much that you would do anything to be fluid-bonded whether it meant not using birth control (rather relying on abortion as birth control) or trying to catch HIV. Love is an enormously powerful thing. Being afflicted with the same disease would probably serve to bring people closer together.

But, what scares the absolute fuck out of me? Some of these men are closeted-homosexuals whom are still married and still having unprotected sex with their wives until they get a positive diagnosis and that's just unbelievable to me!
03/01/2013
kendra30752 kendra30752
Oh my! I actually have never ever heard of "bug chasers," at all. This came as a shock and kind of makes me sad.

I voted that I would not be okay to contract HIV from my partner, but not because we "might break up in the future," as I doubt that will happen, but because my health is one of the very most important things in my life -- right up there next to family/loved ones! I just wouldn't be okay to give up my health intentionally for the man I love. Not that it's a bad thing, but some may think it's selfish? I wouldn't want him to give up his health if I were someone with HIV, either though. His health is just as important to me as mine, but if he were to already had HIV, I still wouldn't be able to just give in and try to contract it. Now, if it so happened that I did end up contracting it, but not intentionally, I'd be very depressed, but would not leave him or anything. Well, unless he like didn't ever tell me he had it or something!

What a tough position to ever have to be in though -- the one you love having it. It'd be so tough!

Anyways. Very interesting topic. This is so new to me, so I imagine it is to others as well. Sounds like some good awareness to spread

Mental health? I don't know, but I suppose it wouldn't hurt to seek it if you were in such a position where you felt the need to contract it, but on the other hand, I don't know what's going through someone's mind like that, so it's hard to say.
03/02/2013
783883877299373783 783883877299373783
I'm sorry but I would not be in a relationship with someone who has HIV. Nothing against people with it but it's just too risky for me. I wouldn't be with anyone with any STD/STI.
03/02/2013
Aishiteru Aishiteru
It's scary that people would intentionally spread one of the worst diseases under any circumstance. If someone thinks that it's not so bad for them to acquire HIV to the point they want to, then it's likely that they won't take giving it to other people very seriously. There are so many ways that people like that could cause harm to others, even unintentionally, especially if they have children.
03/03/2013
fizzygato fizzygato
Quote:
Originally posted by Silverdrop
People who deliberately try to get HIV should be offered mental health treatment on the grounds that they are self-harming. They need to understand that having a chronic infection, even when treatments exist, is a BIG DEAL. If I were in a ...
Hi, it's Fizzygato, the writer of the article. Again, ha

Insisting on having safe sex with someone who has HIV is a personal choice that I respect; anyone should have safe sex for whatever reason they want. However, I think that to treat it like "Someone who has HIV ESPECIALLY needs to have safe sex is a bit overboard." I mean, if you are on anti-retrovirals, in theory, your viral load should be low enough to the point that it is almost below detection and thus incredibly hard to pass on to someone else, especially if you are both on anti-retrovirals. So, I think it is possible to have "not safe sex" with someone who has HIV and still not worry too much about it. ("Not safe" being defined as barrier-less.)

I also agree that "having to take medications daily" can be a big deal. However, if they are coming from a place of privilege, where resources (i.e. money and medicine) is not that big of a deal, I don't think it's that big of a deal, either. I also know people who have missed a day without their meds and been fine. However, I know also people who have consistently missed meds, thus making the anti-retrovirals no longer work for them because the virus developed immunity during their "off" period.

I also agree with what you are saying. Some meds can have side effects. However, HIV meds are getting to the point that they now have much less side effects. For example, before, they used to make people sick often. (I think the NRTIs did, because that's also attacking yourself... I'm pretty sure.) But they've switched over now, and those are mostly only given to people in Africa now. (Blah blah, insert rant about nationalism and privilege.)

I have never heard of HIV meds not working with other meds. I can't imagine how they would interfere, as HIV meds are often designed specifically to target the virus and its parts, and nothing else. (i.e. it will target specific proteins that only that virus makes)

Again, you can consider it self-injury if you'd like, but I personally don't. After all, bugchasing is typically only used to define chasing HIV, not AIDS. You can have HIV but never show any of its symptoms (hence, not cause any "harm"/pain/etc to yourself) if you are on meds. Thus, it's not really harming you; it's just there inside of you.

I don't consider it immoral, personally.

I agree it can put a "burden on the health system," however again, I personally think that to put "blame" on people for being "burdens" on the health system is similar to "victim blaming." Both are really, "It's your fault this happened to you. Why do you deserve help?" Although, I acknowledge they're not the same thing, either. Phrasing it as "burden" just reminds me of such, though.

I appreciate your insightfulness toward my article, but there's a reason I wrote what I did and stick by it mostly
03/03/2013
fizzygato fizzygato
Quote:
Originally posted by Ansley
I think it's sad, for starters. I think it's sad that there are men out there so terrified their sex life is going to inevitably land them with a positive diagnosis that they jump in with both feet and try to catch it. (I've read the ads ...
Many are referred to as MSMs (not closeted homosexuals). Some are like, "I'm just a guy who happens to have sex with other guys."

But being an MSM/ participating in "unsafe sexual behaviors" doesn't necessarily make you a bugchaser. I agree, though, that it's awful that's how many get HIV is through a partner that they trusted but who turned out to be "untruthful" (in having sex without telling their partner).

Married women are statistically the highest at-risk group of getting HIV because of this, particularly African American women, I'm pretty sure.
03/03/2013
fizzygato fizzygato
Quote:
Originally posted by Aishiteru
It's scary that people would intentionally spread one of the worst diseases under any circumstance. If someone thinks that it's not so bad for them to acquire HIV to the point they want to, then it's likely that they won't take giving ...
Bugchasing is different than gift-giving.

Gift-givers are often aware of who they're giving it to, and are like, "Hey, you want HIV? Okay, cool, I'll give it to you," not secretly trying to give it to people.

HIV also isn't a disease; it's a virus

Many are against the phrase "sexually transmitted diseases" and prefer "sexually transmitted infections" because it more accurately describes the situation.
03/03/2013
GONE! GONE!
On one hand, I support everyone having the right to do with they want with their own bodies.
On the other hand, I feel like people should exhaust all the options they can to prevent themselves from doing themselves significant possible harm before doing something scary, like mental health help if they need it.
Like, it's one thing if someone gets ridiculous plastic surgery to look like a tiger or something, that's most likely not going to kill them. Something like this is really risky.
03/04/2013
Bme Bme
If the person with AIDS/HIV loves their partner, they would not let that person take the risk. Although there are some great treatment options out there, there is no guarantee that it will work for them. I could never live with myself. Sex without condoms is infinitely better, but it is not worth risking the life of the person I love.
03/05/2013
fizzygato fizzygato
Quote:
Originally posted by Bme
If the person with AIDS/HIV loves their partner, they would not let that person take the risk. Although there are some great treatment options out there, there is no guarantee that it will work for them. I could never live with myself. Sex without ...
While I understand what you're saying, I think that's part of autonomy and love also is respecting what someone wants to do with their body, and for me love is someone being like, "I get it. It's what you want to do with yourself, no matter what the consequences are, so I'll support you with your decision no matter what."

I also agree that there is no guarantee the treatment will work for them. They could have a strain that is resistant to most/all available anti-retrovirals, but my guess is it'll probably be treatable to some extent by something out there, esp with research constantly producing "better" results.

I probably wouldn't be able to live with myself either, giving HIV to someone (assuming that's what you were saying?). I think that's part of why I find it hard to inflict pain on people, in terms of S/M.
03/06/2013
Rayne Millaray Rayne Millaray
So here's my thing:

I'm in the "it's your body/mind/conscience/s oul" court with just about every related question you could ask me. Cigarettes, drugs and alcohol? It's your body. Abortion? It's your body/conscience (meaning only you can decide for yourself how you view abortion). Tattoos, piercings, plastic surgery, or other body mods? You guessed it...it's your body.

So it's not very surprising that I'm of the mind that, if mental health issues have been ruled out, this is their choice. Provided they're not trying to infect anyone else without their consent, I don't find it scary or sad, and I even kinda understand.

You see, M (my partner of 10 years) and I are fluid bonded because we hate condoms. HATE them. I used them religiously before I was with him because I was broke and I didn't have health insurance. I didn't want to contract an infection and not be able to pay for treatment.

But when it comes right down to it, STIs have never really been that big of a deal to me. I mean, they're uncomfortable, and if I had one, I'd do what I could not to pass it on to someone else, but the fact is they're no better or worse than a common cold on the morality scale to me. A person who contracts an STI is not necessarily promiscuous, or unclean, or socially unacceptable. They may be all of those things, but if they are, they were those things before they contracted the illness, and not because they did.

So if I were to contract an STI -- provided I could afford treatment, and assuming I didn't get it because one of us cheated -- it really wouldn't be that big of a deal to me. Even if it's HIV.

And honestly? If M contracted HIV, and we could afford treatment for both of us, I wouldn't use protection when having sex with him. What's the point? I'm not going to be looking for another partner any time soon. And there are plenty of ways to protect a future lover from contracting the disease if, God forbid, something happened to M. (I chose "Other".)
03/06/2013
Dakota327 Dakota327
Quote:
Originally posted by Rayne Millaray




Welcome to this week's featured SexIs article:


Define This: Bugchasing and the Quest to Acquire HIV, by fizzygato!



Have you ever heard of "bugchasers"? A very interesting concept, indeed. A ...
I don't know if it's "the ultimate" taboo, but it is really wierd.
Yea... Not something you should want!
03/06/2013
Genderfree Genderfree
Honestly, I don't get how you would be able to have that much sex to "catch them all". Seems like you would really have to go out of your way.

I am on the fence about this one. I'd have to talk to a "bugchaser" to be certain about what I believe about this.

EDIT: Whoops, this is only talking about HIV. I guess ignore the top part of my post!
03/11/2013
FieryRed FieryRed
"If a person's chase is in the interest of self-harm, should a mental health professional step in?"

This question leaves out a lot. When you ask whether someone SHOULD step in, are you asking whether it should it be required by law? Whether the bugchaser should be forced to see a professional for help? Or are you asking if, upon learning that a person is "chasing", one should recommend professional help to them? My answer, then, would be that help should never be forced on someone unless they are attempting to harm someone else.

However, I agree with Silverdrop on the definition of self-harm, and that purposely acquiring an infection of any kind which is definitely NOT physically beneficial, and IS likely to have at least some detrimental effects and could even result in death, DOES fit that definition. This is not a matter of opinion, unless you are defining self-harm as something other than self-harm.

In addition, I have to tell you, Fizzygato, that I take very serious offense to your comparison of Silverdrop's mention of the potential for additional burden being placed on America's medical systems by people who are purposely seeking infection, and the practice of victim-blaming which is common in cases of rape. A woman who goes out in public wearing a short skirt is not SEEKING to be raped. A woman who has a few drinks at a party is not HOPING for rape. A woman who goes on a date? Also NOT trying to get raped. And yes, if a "bugchaser" purposely has unprotected sex in the HOPES of acquiring HIV, then it is most certainly his/her fault if s/he does acquire it.

(Ahem. How's that for not being PC? My apologies if I came across as overly combative. It's just really a sensitive issue for me, the victim-blaming thing.)
03/13/2013
fizzygato fizzygato
Quote:
Originally posted by FieryRed
"If a person's chase is in the interest of self-harm, should a mental health professional step in?"

This question leaves out a lot. When you ask whether someone SHOULD step in, are you asking whether it should it be required by ...
Yeah, no I totally get what you're saying about it being two totally different things. Like one is rape, and one is HIV, or however else you're labeling it as.

I think that I even acknowledged (here or in my article or in a comment in my article, I don't remember which) that I couldn't think of a better comparison, yet that was the first immediate comparison that came to mind, especially when it were being phrased as HIV being a "burden" as if it can be your "fault" that you have HIV. i.e. I think that could lead to medical practitioners being like, "Well, how did you get HIV? Did you get it in the 'acceptable' way or did you get it in the 'unacceptable' (aka 'your fault') way?"

Similar to how people treat HIV today--- like them being like, "It's unacceptable if you got HIV through drug needle sharing, not using condoms, etc." but it is "acceptable" if you got it because your mother had it and it was transmitted through birth, through rape, etc.

I worry that could lead to a victim blaming sort effect, if people think of it as a "burden" on the medical system, like this burden that can be "avoided" if one follows the "right" procedures, lifestyles, etc.

So I guess I'm not saying the bugchasers would be "victim blamed" but that anyone who happens to seek medical treatment for HIV would then be subject to high amounts of scrutiny to the point that ones who got it in the ~acceptable~ way would also be blamed. (Here, acceptable meaning non-bugchasing, which I think can be problematic as mentioned before.)

It's also cool to come off as combative. I don't mind. ha, argue with me, anyone.

Like I said, I agree a better term than victim blaming can be used, and I agree rape =/= having HIV, etc thing you want to fill in the blank with, but I think something similar could happen if one creates binaries of acceptable/ not acceptable ways of acquiring HIV.
03/17/2013
fizzygato fizzygato
Quote:
Originally posted by Genderfree
Honestly, I don't get how you would be able to have that much sex to "catch them all". Seems like you would really have to go out of your way.

I am on the fence about this one. I'd have to talk to a "bugchaser" to ...
It would be hard to "catch them all," if you consider all of the different strains of everything there is.

I also agree that it would be good to talk to a bugchaser (or many, actually) to better understand these issues. It is something I would like to do in the future
03/17/2013
eroticmutt eroticmutt
Thank you for bringing the topic to everyone's attention here.

Personally, I am very against the practice of 'bugchasing', especially for those who are doing this in the name of self-harm or as an 'alternative suicide'.

Those who are in a long term relationship and choose to take risks are being grossly irresponsible but it is their own lives they are being irresponsible with. Unfortunately, there is also a chance that if ever they were injured and needed emergency medical attention, they could irrevocably change the life of someone trying to help them. Especially considering that not everyone who can't afford treatment is poor enough to qualify for state-aid medical care, either.
04/22/2013
FieryRed FieryRed
Quote:
Originally posted by fizzygato
Yeah, no I totally get what you're saying about it being two totally different things. Like one is rape, and one is HIV, or however else you're labeling it as.

I think that I even acknowledged (here or in my article or in a comment in ...
"I think that could lead to medical practitioners being like, 'Well, how did you get HIV? Did you get it in the "acceptable" way or did you get it in the "unacceptable" (aka "your fault") way?'"

Ah, now I understand what you're saying, or at least the comparison you were making. But wouldn't the idea and practice of having unprotected sex with the intent to become infected with HIV--wouldn't that just help perpetuate such misconceptions?
04/24/2013
Total posts: 22
Unique posters: 15