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HIV/AIDS Blog Central

Gift Givers

A Video Blog

By Jermaine Wright

November 1, 2011

I have been asked many times about my having engaged in unprotected sex in order to conceive a child. While this may be frowned upon because of my HIV-positive status, having unprotected sex is still a reality for many HIV-positive and HIV-negative people. But I do not intend on trying to infect anyone with the virus, because I am not a "gift giver." A gift giver is an HIV-positive person who seeks out to infect others with HIV.

I have stated before that I am not for or against the use of condoms. What I am against is purposely trying to infect someone with the virus. Some of you may be scratching your heads wondering how is this my stance when my risky behavior could very well end up with the same result. This is true but I believe a lot of it falls on your intentions. When I did infect someone with the virus back in 2009 I carried that guilt for an entire year until I finally reached a place in my mind that made me realize that I hadn't been in that sexual act alone. Everyone has the personal responsibility to take care of themselves and I will not carry that guilt any longer.

Back in May, I had gone to Chicago for an event called International Mr. Leather. I met up with a guy there who had recognized me from my work on YouTube. He began to question me about my videos, told me how much he loved them, then invited me to stop by his hotel room later that evening. When I got into the room there were a bunch of young men in the room having unprotected sex. I found my host and asked him about the party and the status of the people participating. He informed me that this was a gift giver party. There were HIV negative people who were having unprotected sex with the hopes of becoming infected with HIV. These people are called bug chasers. I was in complete shock! Why would anyone want to go around purposely infecting others with HIV?


In my research on this question I learned that some people believe that they have very good reasons for wanting to infect others or become infected. I found many of these people were actually in magnetic relationships. Meaning that one partner was HIV negative while the other was HIV positive. Within these relationships some of the HIV negative partners find it much less stressful to become infected with the virus than to be worried about whether or not they have it. They have also expressed to me that it makes the sex better when both people are HIV positive. I do not condone this but I did understand where they are coming from. I have had sex with HIV negative people where I could not fully enjoy the sex because I was scared that the person would become infected. Yet, when I have sex with an HIV positive person I relax more because that is one thing that I do not have to worry about.

Some of these magnetic relationships have grown so strong that the HIV negative partner may want to share every part of his/her life with their partner. So they seek to become infected so the two have more in common. I found this to be true in relationships where the HIV positive partner has begun to progress into AIDS.

In all the information I gathered I received a lot of information from the bug chasers' point of view. I would still like to know why anyone that is already living with the virus would want to intentionally give this to someone. This is definitely not a gift that comes with a receipt.

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See Also
Fact Sheet: HIV/AIDS and Young Men Who Have Sex With Men
Quiz: Are You at Risk for HIV?
10 Common Fears About HIV Transmission
More Personal Views on HIV Prevention for Gay Men

Reader Comments:

Comment by: John (Philadelphia, PA) Tue., Dec. 13, 2011 at 5:39 am UTC
Thank you for making a blog entry and video about this topic!

It is something that needs to be talked about. I know a lot of HIV+ men who think that because they are HIV+ they do not need to use condoms at all, practice safer sex, and they think that being HIV+ is just an invitation to constantly do it bare/raw with whoever even with other HIV+ people.

Keep in mind that if you are HIV+ and having unprotected sex or bareback anal or vaginal sex with another HIV+ person you can get reinfected, get infected with other strains of HIV, and you can get infected with other STDs which are not good to have if you are HIV+ and I have heard that you can get Hepatitis C from unprotected sex as well. I saw how you mentioned this in your video and I am glad that you said something about this. I have been told that a viral load in blood tests does not always match up to the viral load found in semen or vaginal fluid. I learned this from Dr. Robert Frascino AKA Dr. Bob here on in the "Ask the experts" section.

I know a man who is HIV+ and he is very young at 41 and he is infected with multiple strains of HIV and he is not healthy and it all happened because he decided to be a raw/bare bottom and basically does nothing but that.

I have encountered bug chasers and they are like you described they think that it is something that is just going to happen because they are bisexual men, or because they're gay men. There is an excellent documentary out there about Bug Chasing called "The Gift" if you or someone you know has Netflix you can find it on there.

I have found the blogs of men who are supposedly raw/bareback tops or versatile men who do it raw/bare, and they all claim to be HIV neg but I doubt that they are since they write about constantly hooking up with people and doing it raw/bare, and the tops all have the attitude of "HIV isn't going to happen to me..." and one guy actually wrote "It's impossible for a top to get HIV".
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Comment by: Jermaine (Kalamazoo, MI) Fri., Dec. 16, 2011 at 10:14 am UTC
WOW, it's shocking that people actually believe that if they are topping someone that they can't become infected with the virus. Even tho it is harder to contract the virus as a top it is still not impossible.

Comment by: Who_Me? (South Carolina) Thu., Nov. 10, 2011 at 7:48 pm UTC
This discussion needs to recognize the dangers of re-infection and co-infection. Reinfection with a drug-resistant strain of HIV from someone who assumes at that moment to be HIV-neg is a very real danger. And a Hep-C co-infection is a double horror. So any "relief" gained from having sex with seropositives is only gained in ignorance or denial, when in reality, the mixing of different drug-resistant strains of the virus along with its natural mutations only serves to ruin the therapy options of people who may find out later on that they do in fact have reason to care about such things. That being said, gift givers are just taking advantage of the ignorance and / or poor self-esteem of bug chasers.

Now, in a perfect world where all are honest, adherent, and educated, seropositives with undetectable wild strains of HIV could be ideal for barebacking with others of a similar situation and behavior. But three things bust that notion out as irresponsible as well: (1) viral mutation, (2) true HAART adherence issues, and (3) honesty over lust as a behavior modifier.

Sure, undetectables have an approximately 4% chance of infecting someone else through unprotected intercourse. In my experience, that is less of a chance than having sex with someone who CLAIMS to be HIV neg. But still, I would own that 4% chance despite what the other person says or does. Sorry, buddy. There is no getting around being accountable for OUR part in the damage.
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Comment by: Yes Me! (North Carolina) Sat., Nov. 12, 2011 at 3:23 am UTC
I'm sorry, but this is serophobic horse poop. Re-infection is exceedingly rare, and the same drugs that treat HIV almost certainly protect against reinfection. Re-infection, or super infection or whatever you want to call it just isn't a rational concern for most poz people, and anyone with a brain can reach their own conclusions as to why. Please shelve the moralistic scare fables. The fact that this website trumpets prep for the negative but pretends that medicated pozzies are in danger of getting a new strain is logically inconsistent, and it makes us discount some of the legitimate reasons to wear condoms.

Co-infection on the other hand may be an issue, but the jury is still out on that. There is certainly enough anecdotal evidence to indicate that this is a reasonable fear. The official data is so small, and drawn from such odd subjects that anyone wanting to make a case could argue it to be invalid though.

Finally, an undetectable has WAAAAAAY less than a four percent chance of transmitting the virus. People who aren't on meds don't even have a four percent chance of transmission. Some arguements, such as "the swiss statement", indicate that undetectables have NO chance of transmitting the virus if there are no other STDs and the partners are engaging in heterosexual sex. Sure, treatment failure is a concern, but with some modern regimes you almost have to TRY to mutate the virus, and lets be honest, no one is that stupid. A much greater issue is the huge number of people who, after learning that they might be accountable for "their part" in other people's health, refuse to get tested and are never treated. "Our part in the damage"? Sorry, "buddy", but we might not be causing any damange.

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PozLyfe09: Raw Talk on Life With HIV

Jermaine Wright

Jermaine Wright

Jermaine Wright is a young, black, bisexual father of five who is also living with HIV. Following a period of service in the Army he is now at the Community AIDS Resource and Education Services of Southwest Michigan (CARES) where he promotes Mr. Friendly, a prevention tool used to raise awareness of the stigma associated with HIV. His mission is to reach out to other young black people living with HIV in a safe manner via his YouTube channel, PozLyfe09. For many youth, this is the only place they can go to discuss and share about living with HIV with someone who is open about his status and sexuality. Topics of his videos include: disclosure, dating, fathering a child post HIV diagnosis, passing on the virus, barebacking while HIV positive and more.

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