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Bug-chasing documentary premieres at Berlin Film Festival

A controversial documentary film about gay men who deliberately seek to contract HIV, a practice known as “bug chasing”, has made its public debut at the Berlin Film Festival.

“The Gift”, by director Lousie Hogarth, was completed just a few days ago, reports Reuters. It is formed from a collection of interviews with gay men, mostly from the US west coast, who have purposefully sought to be infected with HIV.The debut follows a controversial article in “Rolling Stone” magazine last month that stated that at least 25% of gay men had deliberately sought infection. The physician quoted in the article has repeatedly denied that he stated that figure.

Louise Hogarth’s film looks at the phenomenon of “bug chasing” — deliberately contracting the HIV virus — and “gift giving” — passing it on to others — although she does not claim that either practice is rife. Some interviewees describe a feeling of guilt of being HIV-negative, a sense of not belonging to a “brotherhood of the infected”. Others describe an apparent rise of unsafe sex among gay men and an increase in parties advertising it. “It is a growing phenomenon. I just looked at my own zip code and found there were three such parties in my area…and they are all over, in Berlin too,” Hogarth said.

The central focus of the film is 21-year-old Doug Hitzel from San Francisco. “I’ve made a terrible mistake and there’s no fixing that. There is no benefit in this and that’s what needs to be said,” he says.