UK sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust has commented to PinkNews about a story in The Mirror, which claims a small number of gay men have willingly had unprotected sex in order to become HIV positive.
A 30-year-old man only identified as “Nick” from the Midlands told the Sunday Mirror that hundreds of men in the UK are meeting on online forums, Facebook and Twitter in an attempt to become infected with the virus.
He reportedly said: “I feel fit as a fiddle. I feel full of energy and healthier as a result of being on my medication.
“I get my liver function tests every three months, my cholesterol tested regularly and I get loads of general health checks so if there are any underlying conditions I know straight away. Even better, I get it all on the NHS.”
The paper then cites a highly questionable 2003 investigation by Rolling Stone magazine, which claimed a quarter of all new HIV transmissions in the US could be attributed to bug chasing.
The figures were widely disputed and the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest LGBT lobby group, branded the investigation “irresponsible”.
Cary James, head of health improvement programmes at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “The term ‘bug chasing’ first came to public attention about ten years ago. However, research has so far found no evidence to suggest that it is practiced on any scale.
“We are aware of a tiny minority of people who meet online to discuss bug chasing as a sexual a fantasy, but the reality is that very few will act on this in the real world. We recommend that gay and bisexual men protect themselves against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections by using condoms.”
Yusef Azad, director of policy at the National AIDS Trust, said: “It is hard to separate fact and fantasy when it comes to reports of ‘bug-chasing’. If it exists at all, it can only involve a tiny minority of gay men. Most gay men understand HIV remains a long-term serious condition, and transmission should be avoided.”
Figures from the Agency showed a record number of gay and bisexual men were diagnosed with HIV in 2011.