The reckless practice, known as bug chasing, started in the US as a bizarre means of getting a sexual high from risk-taking.
Now, according to one man who willingly caught the virus, hundreds of men in the UK are introducing themselves on online forums, Facebook groups and Twitter.
Many then meet up and try to transmit the potentially life-threatening virus, which attacks the immune system weakening the body’s ability to fight disease.
Some bug-chasers actually claim the virus gives them a better quality of life because of the medication they subsequently have to take.
Nick, 30, an admin worker from the Midlands, 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.”
Last year, 73,659 people in the UK were treated for HIV – 43 per cent of them gay or bisexual men – a rise of 58 per cent over the last 10 years.
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Needless to say, such behavior is deplorable for its nihilism. It embodies contempt for self and society alike. It is anti-life.
But for these men, having their behavior deplored is part of the thrill. In thrall to sex addiction as well as their nihilism, they ‘get off’ on doing and being the worst things that their society will peaceably reward (pay) them to do and to be.
What enables their behavior is the payment: the socialized medicine. These men are partly rational. Not completely; for instance, the one man’s supposition that HIV medications are healthy is not rational. But these men have seen that a socialized (and still somewhat wealthy or ‘First World’) society will give them lots of medical care that they have not earned and do not merit.
These men have gauged, correctly, that their society will give them the best care possible, if they inflict some sort of manageable and tolerable medical condition on themselves. Consciously or not, they are ‘playing’ the socialized medical system. That is partly (not entirely) the fault of the system itself: socialized systems for private goods always warp a society’s incentives in some way, and should not exist to begin with.
Morally speaking, these men have a suicide-like ‘right’ to get HIV if they really want to; but no right to have government forcing the rest of their society to pay their way. Yet their government does force the rest of society to pay their way. And so there are enough of these men around to start making a social phenomenon of it.
(NB: Spelling fixes, phrase/wording edits, etc. after initial publication.)