Twenty years after the initial panic, there is a dangerous new complacency fueled by the mistaken belief that AIDS is now a manageable disease.
As many men in the community become condom weary, and some even consciously desire HIV infection, disturbing new trends of risky behavior have pushed the rate of new infections back into a rapid rise, all to the mantra of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Using Internet sites for promotion and connection, a community of barebackers (those who have sex without a condom) is flourishing. This includes bug chasers who host conversion parties where men actively seek the gift of HIV infection.
Doug, a central character of the film, is a bright, articulate young man who moved from the Midwest to San Francisco in search of a gay community. He became a bug chaser and actively sought the gift of HIV infection. When Doug became infected with the virus, he felt a sense of belonging to a community. He is now dealing with the unexpected severity of his illness.
Also featured in the documentary is noted psychoanalyst and community activist Walt Odets, MD, author of In the Shadow of the Epidemic. Dr.Odets examines the loss, grief and anxiety experienced by HIV negative
men living with the AIDS epidemic, and he speaks out about why prevention has failed and what needs to be done.
It is the filmmakers’ hope that The Gift will create dialogue within the community and raise awareness of the issues of isolation and division in the gay community around HIV status, thereby leading to a renewed prevention effort.
Gift Giver: HIV positive man who gives the gift of HIV infection
Bug Chaser: HIV negative man who deliberately becomes infected with HIV
Barebacking: Deliberate high-risk sex with disregard for HIV infection
Some believe the myth that HIV is a chronic manageable disease and that the new drugs promise them a long and healthy life.
“Bug Chasers” by Daniel Hill