You may have noticed on social media or at the Breeding Zone forum that I was involved in some conversations three weeks before the end of 2021 about taking my last PrEP tablet on December 31, 2021, which would have meant I would have started 2022 being “unprepped”. I won’t make you read several paragraphs to find out what happened, but in a nutshell, I did run out of PrEP (because I gave my January supply away as part of the process), but I discovered I wasn’t ready yet, so I sourced a new supply of PrEP and will continue taking it for the time being. I guess you could say that I was unprepared for taking the next step on my first attempt.

Even though I have only been thinking about bug chasing more seriously for about six months, this was my first attempt at stopping PrEP and while some may consider this attempt to be a failure, I see it as something else. It’s true that I wasn’t able to go through with stopping PrEP this time around, which would have removed the layer of protection against HIV transmission and opened me up to the possibility of becoming infected with HIV. But it’s also true that I learned a lot from this experience and I want to share some of my thoughts with you, because it helped me identify some of the areas I still need to work on.

I decided to give myself a deadline to see whether it would help me process the remaining concerns I still had in the back of my mind more quickly and part of this involved removing the temptation to return to using PrEP, which is why I gave my last remaining bottle of PrEP to a friend. In the past, I have mentioned that I believed I was 99% ready to take the next step, with only 1% hesitation remaining. What I discovered after my first attempt at stopping PrEP is that the percentage of doubt is actually higher than 1%, although I don’t know what the actual number is. Perhaps it’s 10% and maybe it’s more or perhaps slightly less, I’m not really sure.

What I can say is that when I made the decision to stop taking PrEP, as the time reached closer to the December 31 deadline, the thoughts and emotions inside my head became extremely intense and were swirling around like crazy, which was an experience I was unfamiliar with. It was like I was in fight or flight mode and I felt like I knew which decision I wanted to make, but as I was getting closer to reaching the deadline, my mind became overwhelmed with emotions and it created confusion inside my head. From what I have heard whilst discussing my this with others, this is a perfectly normal reaction and not everyone will be able to take the next step on their first attempt.

There were also a couple of other factors that resulted in this hesitation based on the timing. I had someone who was a big influence on me suggesting I was ready to take this step (based on me thinking that I was) and even though I’m sure he didn’t mean to, he created this overwhelming pressure inside me that was making me feel like I had to do this, because I didn’t want to disappoint him. The important thing to remember is that this must be a decision that is right for each of us and the timing must also be made based on our own schedule and not a timeframe set by someone else.

At the same time I was processing these thoughts, someone I have been chatting with had just taken the next step in his chase and had met up with a gifter, because he had made the decision to get converted and found someone who could infect him with the virus. After the encounter with his gifter, he became very sick and was explaining some of his symptoms to me, which left him feeling extremely unwell for quite some time. This is all I can say about this, as it’s not my story and I’m unsure whether he would even want me saying this much, but I have not identified him and this is part of what made me reach my current decision to stay on PrEP for the time being.

If you are wondering what some of the concerns are, I’m happy to share them with you. One of the first things I couldn’t get out of my head was my parents. I have other family members I am close to as well, but as my parents age, I know they are going to need me to help them at some point in the future, so I don’t want to disappoint them by being unable to help them in their hour of need, whenever that might be. My parents are getting older, but they aren’t that old and are still independent and probably will be for a long time, but this is a thought that’s in the back of my mind. Another thought is my dog, every time I look at him and think about doing this, it upsets me, because I know my dog and my other pets are dependant on me and need me to survive and take care of them.

Something else that’s a really big issue is that I’m worried that if I do become infected, then it might unnecessarily accelerate an underlying medical condition that I’m not even aware of. There is also the guilt of those who passed away from AIDS in the early days when no medication was available to help them. This decision makes me feel selfish, because I know for a fact that even though many people passed away from AIDS complications over the years, they would jump at the chance to be in my shoes right now and have a second chance at being HIV-negative if they could. In addition to this, where I work deals with unwell people, so I interact with sick people who are suffering from cancer or who have family who suffer from cancer, so it’s devastating to see some of them terminal and about to leave this life, with me standing in front of them perfectly healthy contemplating this decision.

These are only some of the thoughts I’m processing in my mind, but most of these concerns could be eliminated by doing just one thing, which would mean the issue about being unhealthy or no longer independent might not actually exist. A lot of the concerns I have in relation to the health aspects could be resolved by taking antiretroviral medication to ensure my CD4 count remains high and my viral load remains low, which would mean I could be HIV-positive and not get sick and live a regular life. But then I think to myself, is there a point to this if I just start taking medication to suppress the effects of the virus when I could just take a different pill to avoid the virus altogether.

You might be thinking that I am abandoning becoming an active bug chaser based on what you have just read, but this is not the case. I have been having these bug chasing thoughts for about 15 years, when I was about 20 and they haven’t gone away since then, the feelings have only intensified. It was in 2021 that I started thinking more seriously about these thoughts and that’s when I decided I wanted to understand myself better, which is when I started researching bug chasing and HIV more seriously. That’s why I reached the point in my life where I figured if this is a part of me, then I should embrace it and here we are.

So even though my first attempt to take a step forward didn’t eventuate in a full step towards becoming an active bug chaser, I do feel as though I have still moved forward a little bit, because this experience has given me insight into the areas where I have concerns and I know some of these concerns can be alleviated through other options, such as antiretroviral medication when the time is right. This experience also made me appreciate the fact that this needs to be done when the time feels right, so don’t ever feel pressured or influenced by anyone else, as this is a massive decision that has lifelong effects. HIV is permanent and it won’t go away, the virus will continue to live inside you for the remaining time you are alive, so this is something you always have to think about.

What also helps me with the decision-making is removing any excitement or fantasy from the equation. If you’ve got your hand on your dick watching poz porn and you are thinking about becoming an active chaser when you are in this state of mind, your mind will not be in the right place to make such a serious decision. You need to think about it when you have a clear mind from a health, financial and social perspective, by pressing the fast forward button in your head to thinking you are HIV-positive right now and what life might be like for you. Do you like how it feels or would you rather not go there yet or even at all?

Bug chasing is extremely complicated and a massive percentage of bug chasing involves thoughts and emotions, which happens before the act of bug chasing commences. It has helped me to talk with others about this and I am grateful I have been able to chat with people online about this, as it has helped clarify my thinking and if you wondering where I am at right now, I am happy to tell you. I am still interested in moving forward, but the time must be right and everything must be clear in my mind. Once I am in the right place and I have fully accepted the consequences, only then can I move forward by taking the next step.


Featured Photo: Betomiranda1 from Pixabay.
Article ID: CC024
Version Control: 1.0 – January 7, 2022: Original article published.

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Steven

Great article Jason! I have been on & off PrEP for the last 8+ years. I was a closeted gay man who married/made babies. Was a newlywed when Magic Johnson announced his poz test. Used condom most of the time but took many raw loads too. Got Outed & divorced but I was relieved to not live a lie. In my early 40’s heard the terms bug chaser/gifted/gifters. In my local gay community. I got tested at least twice a year or if learned of someone new with the bug. Getting a call from a newly pozzed partner made my heart stop! Go get tested but neg.. a few sti was able to clear up but not the bug. Like I said on PrEP the last 8 yrs and haven’t heard of new poz cases (older gay community) until this last two years. People dropping their PrEP to get Pozzed & taking meds to get undetectable as a “Badge of Honor”. I don’t understand it… ,but like you I have too much to live for and responsibility. Be strong & live a long life!

alfred

That is an interesting article Jason. It is a reminder that we seroconvert if we’re ready. I’m ready to find a baby daddy who will poz me on the first try

Hi Jason and thanks for the opportunity to reread your very fine and open and honest and analytical article, you are indeed a very fine man , thanks for being here for us.
I guess I am the person who suggested that you stopped prep at new year and that you made the decision at beforehand and that you made sure you had gotten rid of any surplus , a suggestion that has helped me couple of times when I wanted to stop my hiv treatment
But the main thing is we find the solution and decision which is our own and in due time
So I am glad how you managed to reevaluate and postpone your stopping prep decision and that you take all your necessary time
And I am also very impressed how you discuss to not want to start anti hiv treatment once converted and your reasoning
Xx Carsten

Carsten

Hello Jason thanks for your kind and productive feedback which makes me happy and proud at the same time, for you and your journey and myself because the choice to stay off any hiv treatment is supported by your kind reply and I hope and believe you are strong enough to stay unmediated for a substantial amount of time to allow hiv its very well deserved right to work inside us
Hugs Carsten

Carsten

Jason I am very moved by your beautiful HIV devotion and I couldn’t agree less: if we feel genuine and authentic it also suggests to me that it’s impossible to see a point unless we aim for the necessity to feel HIV’s effect to our infected body
Hugs Carsten

Carsten

Hi Jason thanks for your kind reply
And you truly are on your route and I feel very positively that you will succeed and succeed rather soon – maybe even sooner than you realise as I believe that all your efforts will be rewarded

Can I ask if you please don’t hesitate if I can be of any possible help and assistance that you could think of as a way of supporting you even further as it’s my firm belief and personal experience that it’s merely a matter of time for you to take your final plunge, kindly Carsten

Hi Jason – Im so delighted to read your reply especially how you are confirming for us that its only a matter of time now – and that progression is constantly in the right direction – there surely is a constant back-forward issue – I remember that clearly when I wanted to stop my HIV-treatment: and underneath this doubt – but luckily I had very productive help from kind friends who knew what was right for me

Carsten

Hi Jason its a very big pleasure to read your reply to me, you are so cool and devoted and focused and you truly enjoy your journey even with setbacks and you do indeed never miss prospective

Johnny

Hi Jason, great article and I have experienced all the feelings which you describe. The strong desire to convert but also the fear of taking the step which could change your life. Everyone is different and will take different amounts if time to come off prep and actively chase, some will change their mind and go back on prep and that is fine. I came off prep 18 months ago and naively thought I would convert very quickly but I am still neg. Keep up the good work.

Jim

Jason thanks for sharing your journey. It does seem strange to go off PrEP, chase to Poz only to go back on HIV control meds again. Why go off meds only to go back on them? I definitely think back on my 1980”s friends who passed from AIDS and wonder if my willingness to poz is disrespecting them.

There are other factors at play. At least here in Wisconsin, the number of poz detectable men seem to be rare. Tons of poz undetectable. But poz and not on meds a rare commodity. Wisconsin is a reasonably big state. So “local” might still be a six hour drive away. So even if I found that willing gifter, arranging meetup times is its own challenge.

Finally, some years ago rawTop on BZ brought up the 23andme site and whether we are genetically immune or resistant. I tested on there and indeed, I am resistant to begin with. Which helps me understand why while I have always barebacked, even in the 80s when AIDS was raging, I remained neg.

I am of an age where my elders have all passed. So staying alive for them isn’t a factor.

But for me there is an interesting conundrum… I am vaxed and boosted for Covid I get my flu shot every year. I got my pneumonia and shingles shot. I do those after years of asthma and that awful feeling of suffocating is scary as fuck. My STI clinic finds and treats the occasional STI that shows up. So am I truly a bug chaser? Or is it the joy of free and risky sex that is the turn on?

One thing I do know, if I were to poz I would not panic and would not regret it, just like I have never regretted any other STI I’ve acquired. Given my history, I would likely start antiviral meds at a point. The Wisconsin clinics would of course push hard for me to start immediately.

Jez

Hi Jason, thanks for sharing all that you are feeling at the moment. As I and others have said before, it is your choice and a big step to take. Hope that whatever you decide, you will be at peace with your decision.

Sam

Thank you for sharing your journey with us. While you might have seen your reluctance to stop Prep as a negative I think it shows you’re taking chasing seriously. As hot as poz porn/twitter is, real thought has to be put into the long term consequences of chasing.

After years of chatting with other chasers I’ve found a period of hesitation is insanely common. Porn is one thing but once the possibility of actually becoming poz is a reality it forces you to do some self reflection. Even though I’ve been turned on by bug chasing for over a decade I only started actively chasing relatively recently.

Bottom line there’s no right way to chase. Everyone’s relationship with HIV is unique. Whether you’re an active or theoretical gifter/chaser the one thing that unites us is the way HIV dominates our thoughts.

Eric

Very introspective!!! Really interesting how you talked about “the time in your life” I can imagine now that where are you are in your life, finances, career and stuff all matter.

dave

I’ve come to decide that HIV might be the most complex sociological experience I’m going to encounter. This is by no means an easy choice at all. You do highlight one thing that I think is really important: we all have others who depend on us, and if we care about them, we have to factor their lives into our decisions about getting infected.

New Guy

Hi Tom, I loved reading your post and agree with the importance of being ready and if that’s an on-off process, then so be it. It’s on your schedule and nobody can push you in either direction. I hope you find the peace of mind to know when you are being inseminated by your chosen baby daddy, that the choice is right and the timing is of your own choice. I hope you enjoy the next experience regardless of the result. Half of the fun MUST be in trying. I am loving this positive community spirit.

New Guy

What great insight and thank you for sharing. This is your journey and yours alone – only you can decide when is the right time for you to seriously seek out a baby daddy – it’s up to you and only you. Please don’t forget that. As I get closer to being ready to make the leap, and I do see it as a leap, I am beginning the process of seeking out a baby daddy. It has to be someone I really want to have convert me and it has to be in a ritual style setting with witnesses of my choosing. I hope you find peace and give yourself the space and time to figure out when is good for you. Don’t rush into this and pick your baby daddy wisely when you are ready. It only happens once. Thanks for your great writing and work on this site.

Tom

Thank you Jason for your honest and thoughtful admission. As you had said to me, one may stop and start PrEP any number of times before one becomes ready to give it up for good. As you know I did stop PrEP in mid November and had one encounter with a transmissable Poz guy. It did not take and when Covid picked up again, I decided to go back on PrEP because I did not want to possibly sero convert and battle Covid at the same time. I realized I was not hooking up at this time so have stopped PrEP again and hope to resume my pursuit of sero conversion in the next couple weeks. I already have a tentative connection who tells me he is toxic as fuck. I am a bit worried for some of the reasons you mention namely my dog but many poz guys do have pets and are quite able to take care of them. If I decide there are meds I can go on to prolong my hiv positive life. My desire to sero convert is stronger than my fear and someday perhaps you will find that yours is also.