By Caden Ziegler
Web Content Contributor
In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration approved Truvada to be released to the public. Truvada, commonly known as PrEP, is a combination of two different drugs that when taken together decrease the chance of one contracting HIV by over 90 percent. The same medications that make up PrEP can also be used in conjunction with other drugs to stop the transmission of HIV if someone already has it.
PrEP and ART (antiretroviral therapy) are not curing HIV, they merely slow the progression of the virus. We have means of preventing the transmission and reception of HIV, so theoretically we could wipe out this virus in a single generation. But that isn’t going to happen. Why? Yes, many people have difficulty accessing drugs like PrEP depending on their geographic location and financial status, but another reason is bug chasers.
Bug chasers are people who will intentionally contract HIV, calling it “The Gift,” from an HIV-positive person, i.e. the “Gift Giver.” Bug chasers can be either homosexual or heterosexual, but the practice is more frequent in the former.
There are many reasons that people want to contract HIV, as found by the AIDS Education and Training Center. Some men in prison hope to get it, that way they are less likely to be assaulted while they are incarcerated. Another man, Karan, told the AETC that he intentionally got HIV and it “brought him to a better place spiritually.” He was thrown out of the church he attended and getting HIV made him holy because he was “dying for [his] sins.” The guilt around homosexuality in the church pushed this man to think that a potentially fatal disease would make him holy and save his soul.
The two most common reasons that I’ve found for contracting HIV are that they want to belong to a community, or because they want to have copious amounts of unprotected sex and they would rather nip it in the bud. The bug chaser sees contracting HIV is seen as a rite of passage, giving him access to the “brotherhood.”
In other cases, people have been known to inject themselves with their HIV-positive partner’s blood so that they can die together. There is also evidence that some people may hire HIV-positive prostitutes to seduce their enemies and give them HIV. While this is not bug chasing, it contributes to the spread of HIV.
Forums.poz.com is a website for HIV-positive men to connect with each other. One member brought up bug chasers, and many were outraged and confused at the idea of bug chasing. One member said “I just don’t understand why someone would want HIV. I can’t help but think of all the people who slipped up once and became poz. Yet, here is some person who is out there actively trying to catch it? WTF?”
This behavior isn’t incredibly common, but it still exists and confounds many people. If you feel at risk or know someone who may be, we encourage you to visit the Kind Clinic. The Kind Clinic in Austin is located at 1101 W 40th St #102. I have gone multiple times and never had to pay a dime for the appointments or medication. If you are interested in a consultation for PrEP or need STD treatment, you can call 512-853-9547 to set up an appointment.
Featured illustration by Caden Ziegler.