In honor of World AIDS Day, December 1, 2007.

Craigslist is one of my favorite websites, both for practical reasons and entertainment. From apartment-hunting to selling unwanted Star Wars memorabilia to finding an occasional hook-up, it’s a pretty useful site. My friends and I have recently taken to perusing the “m4m” personal ads and laughing at grammatical errors and obvious desperation (cruel, I know, so sue me). So last week I was browsing in the m4m section and came across the most disturbing ad I’ve ever seen. Now, to give you a bit of context, I regularly skim right by ads about “full toilet service,” bukkake sessions, glory holes, and foot worship – and I don’t give them a second thought. Hey, whatever floats your boat, right? But this ad was entitled Bug-chaser seeks poz top.

In case you’re not sure what that means (and I didn’t before a storyline on Queer as Folk addressed the issue), a “bug-chaser” is an HIV-negative person who actively seeks out an HIV-positive person to infect them. I don’t claim to be an expert on bug-chasing, but I know there’s something pretty wrong there. It’s kind of like asking your doctor to inject you with bubonic plague, or licking the pus from a gangrenous wound, or eating the uncooked brain of a rabid dog. Perhaps you can tell I think it’s a little gross. Death wishes are for insane, radical cult members, not Joe Schmo.

I’ve seen plenty of stupidity in these ads before, mostly in the form of HIV-negative guys asking for anonymous tops to come bareback them. And up until this last ad, that’s how I would classify those guys: stupid. But seeing Bug-chaser’s ad put the whole idea of safe sex in a new light for me. Not only are people ignorant about the risks associated with unsafe sex, there are people who are actually TRYING to transmit STIs, and both are continuing to contribute to the worst pandemic in 100 years. What I had previously considered stupidity took on a new tone: malice.

I admit that I’ve had unprotected sex before – with long-term, monogamous boyfriends (all 2 of them!). I know that there’s a certain hotness about not having to use a condom (or dental dam, or latex glove, or whatever); I actually agree with those stupid folks that unsafe sex feels better… but that doesn’t mean it’s worth it! Until you’ve really gotten to know someone – i.e. you know for certain that they’re clean and not at risk for getting any new STIs – why risk your life?

Now don’t get me wrong, I know there aren’t that many bug-chasers out there, and most people realize that HIV (and other STIs) are pretty damn shitty. But ignorance can be just as life-threatening as stupidity. The HIV virus is not always detectable immediately after contraction, and can sometimes be present 3-6 months without showing up in HIV tests; WAY more often than not, HIV is spread by someone who doesn’t know they have it. And when there are lives at stake, there’s no more excuse for ignorance or stupidity.

HIV affects the gay, bi, and trans communities disproportionately, largely because anal intercourse is inherently more dangerous than vaginal intercourse. I don’t mean to downplay the effect of STIs in the straight and lesbian communities (particularly hepatitis and HPV, which is extremely widespread and can lead to cervical cancer), but HIV – despite many advances in treatment – is still the only universally terminal STI. From what I’ve seen, too, gay men tend to be a whole lot stupider about their sex lives than most other demographics, so it’s us that needs the biggest slap in the face.

So for goodness’ sake, folks; there are enough stupid people in the world already; there’s no need to add to their numbers, or the numbers of HIV/AIDS victims – just insist on rubbers. They’re really not that bad.

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