Why these gay men want HIV, not PrEP
Pictured above: Man with biohazard tattoo, symbol of an insect hunter to be HIV positive.
“I totally stopped [PrEP] for a month and was uploaded by four guys ”, said Milon, 28. “It was really exciting not knowing what [would] to arrive.”
Milo is not alone.
“Bug hunting”, for those unfamiliar with, is a fetish for the HIV virus. Individuals – known as “bug hunters” – pursue and voluntarily have sex with consenting HIV-positive people – known as “gift givers” – with the intention of becoming infected with the virus.
Members of this fetishistic community – who refer to themselves as the “poz brotherhood” – call HIV the “bug” or “gift” and infected sperm the “seed” or “gift”. Those who contract the virus often get the biohazard symbol tattooed to show they are positive.
Although the origins of the bug hunt are difficult to trace, anecdotal reports of the fetish began to appear in 1997 on the first Internet forums and blogs. Later, in 2003, an article in the February issue of Rolling stone said that having sex with an HIV-positive person is the “ultimate taboo” and “the most extreme sexual act left on the planet”. That same year, the documentary Gift followed two bug hunters in Los Angeles.
In recent years, the advent of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and antiretroviral therapy has presented a barrier for bug hunters. “It changed everything because now guys can protect themselves if they want to, but taking the risk of getting fucked naked without using PrEP is much hotter,” Art, 38, shares in a forum on bareback.com. “I grew up in the condom days, but now I’m tired of getting fucked with condoms. The feeling is bad for both parties.
Art adds that the question Are you clean? is rather common in the community, although he thinks this implies that the virus is dirty, an offensive assumption. While art is undetectable (i.e. not communicable) and can have sex with partners who are not just looking for infection, he always answers yes to this question because as an ass he showered completely.
Many bug hunters I spoke with knew about PrEP and had no negative feelings about the drug, although it can hamper the efforts of active bug hunters and gift givers. As long as these sources could bare, they were more or less satisfied. “I fully support PrEP,” Anthony, 41, tells me on Bareback.com. “But that didn’t exist when I was looking for HIV status.”
From the responses I received in this thread, which I titled “Curious About Bug Chasing,” the idea of a “positive charge in a negative hole” was appealing to most respondents, without necessarily become infected. Like any fetish, however, there are extremists and for such people infection is the only option.
Jaime Garcia-Iglesias, Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Manchester, author of a paper 2019 titled “Wanting HIV is such an interesting choice: exploring the fluid identities and online engagements of bug hunters” in Deviant behavior, a peer-reviewed academic journal that focuses on social deviance, including criminal, sexual and narcotic behavior. In his article, Garcia-Iglesias explores the modern impacts of antiretroviral drugs and PrEP on the community through three people, including Milo.
During a drought, Milo, who said he had a “very good knowledge of sexual health”, had stopped taking PrEP and knowingly had sex with a man who said he was negative, although he was actively pursuing the drugs. insects. The individual Milo had sex with had not been tested for two years and already had “a few” anonymous charges in him that day. Milo explains that the dangerous potential of the situation was alluring, an experience psychologically akin to playing Russian roulette. He quickly started receiving loads of anonymous men without knowing their status.
Dropping off PrEP is a big step for modern bug hunters like Milo. It is considered an allegiance to the poz brotherhood because it suppresses the defense against HIV. “As many bug hunters say, it’s like ‘training wheels’ for when you finally decide to go without them,” Milo adds, noting that when or if he decides to accept the gift , he would expect the relationship with his gift giver to be very ritualized, “like the vampire and [the] recruit.”
For Scott, 53, being infected with the virus offers a unique and everlasting form of privacy. “I want to feel a connection with another man,” he said in Garcia-Iglesias report. “I want to feel this man. … I want to have a part of another man alive inside of me, almost like the feeling of wanting to be pregnant.
If and / or when he tests positive, Scott, who was still negative at the time of the study, admits that he will refrain from taking medication for as long as he can in order to make himself available. as a gift for those looking for that rare connection. . “I feel for the guys in my position and how hard it is, how much it hurts and how painful it is to have that desire and not have it fulfilled. as a gift giver, ”he says.
Fascinated by this prospect, I ventured further into Bareback.com. Immediately I found out that bug hunters outnumber gift givers, but managed to find a gift giver, Ernie, 38, who was willing to talk. He had inadvertently become HIV positive, but is now looking for HIV negative guys who want positive charges because, like Scott, he views these men as more reliable, engaged and submissive partners. “If I was able to get someone across, I would definitely want to maintain a relationship,” he shares with me.
The bond between an insect hunter and a gift giver is considered similar to a lifetime marriage; they have a common infection from the same virus. “Bug hunters get turned on by the possibility that every sexual encounter could be ‘the one’ that infects them with HIV,” Garcia-Iglesias tells me. “Others think that getting rid of HIV is a way to rebel against ‘always safe sex’ [expectation] and, at times, oppressive social environments that they [have] lived [in]. ”
For others, no connection is necessary. “The guy who poz’ed [me was] a mutual friend of a friend in another country ”, shares Art. “When he became HIV positive my friend and I convinced him to fuck me naked. He was reluctant to do it, but we went out and got drunk, and when we came back he fucked me bareback all night. He had a [penal] piercing so when he fucked me hard, the risk of infection was higher. A few weeks later I caught the flu and the rest is history. I don’t see them anymore.
After his positive diagnosis, Art was speechless for about two minutes. Once the initial shock dissipated, he felt relieved, as if he had been given a free pass to have bareback sex without fear of being infected. “Once you’re bareback, you don’t want your gift wrapped,” he says.
Shane Hebel, Product Manager at the HIV Drug Adherence Monitoring Company UrSure Inc., tells me that the search for infection may be linked to a desire for acceptance into a closer community of like-minded individuals. It can also be caused by the belief that HIV is more of a nuisance than a fatal disease due to advances in medicine, and is the “price to pay” for a great sex life. Some bug hunters believe infection is inevitable, and intentional infection is a self-contained act that puts power in the hands of the individual rather than the virus. Many forum participants told me that, to increase the risk of infection, they roughly rub their rectum with a toothbrush to create micro-tears.
Still, there are a number of bug hunters who exist only online and will never physically search for HIV. On the contrary, they prefer to play with the fantasy. “They will look and say extremely dark things,” Garcia-Iglesias says. “However, they are well aware that these are fantasies that they will not realize offline and that are linked to a masturbatory context.”
Online forums are magnetic for bug hunters. Members frequent sites like bareback.com and Barebackcity.com, and I’m told that a new website is called BarebackRT.com is becoming quite popular. All boast of having communities in which consensual transmission of HIV can be organized and openly discussed.
When browsing apps like Grindr and Scruff, bug hunters leave subtle clues, like the biohazard symbol, on their profiles; others say so bluntly. Offline, insect hunters frequent public baths or cruise spots and consensually play out their fantasy, either by imagining that the stranger they are having sex with is positive or by engaging in having unprotected sex knowing they might be infected. “Along with bug hunting, the act of transmission is an important part,” Hebel explains.
It is undeniable that the meaning and motivation associated with bug hunting has changed in the era of PrEP and antiretroviral drugs. For some, this blurs the binary between fantasy and reality, as one can choose to indulge in bareback sex while taking PrEP and live the fantasy more safely. For others, it doesn’t make a difference at all, because someone who is deliberately looking for an infection will not take these drugs. But a coherence shared between these two groups of people remains: an attraction to danger and a desire for community that being HIV positive can provide. From there, it’s up to the individual to decide how far they want to go.