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January 26, 2003

Rolling Stone's 'Bug Chasers' Story

RollingStone.com - Bug Chasers : The men who long to be HIV+

Replies: Andrew Sullivan - Sex- and death-crazed gays play viral Russian Roulette!
Newsweek: Is Rolling Stone's HIV Story Wildly Exaggerated?

Full disclosure: I noticed this story because I wondered if the author, Gregory A. Freeman, who I saw mentioned on Romanesko's MediaNews, was the Greg Freeman I worked with on my college newspaper. It is.

Two of Freeman's sources say they were misquoted, as detailed in the Newsweek story above.

Sullivan rightly takes Freeman to task for the thinness of his sources (he talks to 2 purported bug chasers, and no "gift-givers") and the lack of studies backing up this potentially disturbing phenomenon. It's absolutely true that Freeman is guilty of major innumeracy when he applies a fuzzy number to a wrong statistic to suggest that 10,000 people a year are infecting themselves.

But I thought it was interesting that neither the Newsweek nor the Andrew Sullivan story addresses this paragraph:

One standout in public-health circles is the Miami-Dade County Health Department in Florida, which is taking steps specifically to address bug chasing. Evelyn Ullah, director of its office of HIV/AIDS, readily admits that bug chasing is "a definite problem" in the Miami area, having become more common and more visible in the past few years. Miami health officials regularly monitor Internet sites for bug chasing in their community, and they keep track of "conversion parties," in which the goal is to have positive men infect negative men. The health department also is launching new outreach efforts that include going online to chat with bug chasers and others pursuing risky sex.

January 26, 2003 in Seen browsing | Permalink


The outreach program seems pretty weak: We live in Miami-Dade's gay center (South Beach) yet have never heard of this. Not that we're really in touch with trends in the gay community, but still, I'd expect to have seen a story in the Miami Herald or the Miami New Times, which does a respectable job of investigative journo (although it lost an excellent political reporter when the Herald snapped up Jim DeFede). It seems to my naive self that the general public would be (should be) educated about such a dangerous game. Perhaps I don't understand the mission and methods of such programs; since I'm not part of the at-risk group, I guess they don't think I need to know about it. I may call Ms. Ullah to see how real this is, because it's way up on the list of sickest things I've ever heard of.

Posted by: john at Jan 27, 2003 12:37:46 AM

I worked with Greg too, right after he graduated . . . looked after his enormously goofy dog during his honeymoon . . . right before we moved out here, I learned he lived a block away but we never re-connected. Now I see he's moved on: new location, different wife.

This is a tremendously weird story: what can you say to "But now that he's getting his life back in order, he realizes that being HIV-positive can be a roadblock to new relationships."

I read the other articles that comment on this one and it seems hard to believe it got published at all.

There's something else strange about this: it almost seems like a contrived way of demonizing the gay community: quotes like "They're incredibly selfish and self-absorbed" and the deranged "Carlos's" every word seem calculated to portray gay men into sex-crazed children with a death wish.

Posted by: paul at Jan 28, 2003 12:24:46 AM

i'm doing a presentation on the article "bug chasers" that i read in rolling stone mag.. i don't know where to get the information on an issue such as this if there is anyone out there that can help me that would be great.. this iformation is only going to be presented to my fellow classmates. all information is helpful and welcomed.. that's [email protected] thanks alot

Posted by: lin at Feb 20, 2003 5:28:35 AM

I am also presenting to my health class on this article, I will send you whatever I find if you could do the same. Thanks Jessica

Posted by: jessica at Mar 25, 2003 7:06:18 PM