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Magazine's HIV claim rekindles “gay plague” row

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.326.7386.454 (Published 22 February 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:454
  1. Ken Howard, freelance science writer (khoward@genomeweb.com),
  2. Gavin Yamey, deputy physician editor (gyamey@bmj.com)
  1. San Francisco
  2. Best Treatments

    The US glossy magazine Rolling Stone is best known for its coverage of the latest music and movies. But recently it tried its hand at a little HIV epidemiology, and found itself accused of sensationalism and virulent homophobia.


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    Critics have called the Rolling Stone article “grossly sensationalistic reporting”

    In a feature called “In search of death,” published in its February issue, the magazine suggested that a new craze is sweeping America. Thousands of gay men each year are apparently seeking out HIV positive partners in order to become infected. These men are known as “bug chasers.” The men who give them the virus are “gift givers.”

    This was not the first story about bug chasing—in September 1997, for example, Newsweek ran a feature entitled “A deadly dance” that discussed the phenomenon. What was shocking about the Rolling Stone article was its assertion that an astonishing 25% of all new HIV infections in gay men was caused by bug chasing.

    The article profiled one bug chaser called Carlos (a pseudonym), a 32 year old gay man living in New York, who has an intense desire to become infected …

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