Curious Chaser has been online for nearly three months, with this being the 21st article published. As expected prior to launching my website and social media account, I have started receiving some nasty comments from people who strongly disagree with bug chasing and/or gift giving and deliberate HIV transmission. The main theme of these messages has been from people being concerned with HIV-positive people intentionally and recklessly infecting individuals who are not aware that they are being infected, which is definitely a serious issue. I believe some of these messages are coming from people who do not fully understand being HIV-positive and are expressing their hatred, so I am publishing this article to reveal my position on the subject.
The act of intentionally infecting another person with HIV against their knowledge is a crime in various places and is called “stealthing”. Stealthing can also involve someone who agrees to have sexual intercourse with another person through the use of a condom, where the condom gets removed at some point afterwards, unknowingly to the other person involved, which means the sex then becomes unprotected against the knowledge of both parties. There’s a growing number of laws around the world that make stealthing illegal. I also consider the word to be very interesting, because if you remove the letters “th” from the word stealthing, you get “stealing”, which is the perfect word to describe taking the decision making process away from another person.
There have been numerous criminal cases involving people who have been jailed for intentionally infecting people against their knowledge such as Stuart McDonald from Australia, Steven Boone from Canada, Darryl Rowe from the United Kingdom and Michael Johnson aka Tiger Mandingo from the United States, all who were involved with intentionally infecting multiple sexual partners by lying to them about their HIV status. It’s true that people have been infecting other people with HIV since the 1980s, but the difference is that most of these infections were unintentional transmissions, or cases where all parties involved were fully aware of what was happening. The difference between accidental HIV transmission and stealthing, is that stealthing involves one person who knows what’s going on, but they become reckless by misleading the other person by lying to them directly or by misleading the other person in some way.
When it comes to just about everything in life, making informed decisions is important, even when it comes to bug chasing or gift giving. This is extremely important when it comes to sexual intercourse, because sex can involve risks, whether it involves the use of a condom, which could mean the difference between pregnancy (for heterosexual intercourse) and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (for homosexual and heterosexual intercourse). Quite often stealthing does specifically refer to condom usage, but the term can also be used by barebackers who have agreed to have unprotected sexual intercourse with someone based, when the other person lies when asked about their HIV status.
Here are some examples of stealthing from a barebacking perspective that involve one person making a statement that is untrue that could result in serious health and legal implications:
- One person says he is HIV-negative, but he is actually HIV-positive and is not taking antiretroviral medication, meaning he has a detectable viral load and can transmit HIV to another person.
- One person admits to being HIV-positive, but says he is taking anti-retroviral medication to give him an undetectable viral load, when he specifically knows he is not taking any anti-retroviral medication and most likely has a detectable viral load and can transmit HIV to another person.
I try to keep my articles neutral, but I wanted to include something personal in this article, because it relates to this topic and it might give you more insight into my own thinking when it comes to this subject. When I was in my final year of high school, I found out that one of the boys in my class (who was gay like me) became HIV-positive by having unprotected sex with another guy or multiple guys. We were only sixteen at the time, which is the legal age for sexual intercourse in my location, which includes same-sex intercourse, so it was perfectly legal for him to have sex, but he was not equipped to know all the risks associated with having unprotected sex from a male to male perspective. Our school did not teach any sexual education at the time, so we were on our own to learn about it and the internet was only new back then, so information wasn’t as readily available as it is today.
Even though we were both gay, we didn’t talk to each other much about sex stuff, plus I was sexually inactive at the time, but he became really messed up as a result of his diagnosis at such a young age. I don’t know whether the guy or guys he was having sex with knew their HIV status when they were having unprotected sex with him and PrEP was not available at the time, so unprotected sex was extremely risky (which we now know, but didn’t as much at the time). These days, people have more information and options to protect themselves, but people can still be vulnerable, so it’s important for us to think about other people when it comes to having sex, even if we think they know what they’re getting themselves into when they agree to have unprotected sex.
I don’t want to turn this article into a lecture, I just want to point out a few things based on the feedback I have received, because some people assume that all HIV-positive people aim to intentionally infect other people with the virus, which is not the case. Stealthing is fine in a fantasy driven state, but when it becomes reality based physical actions, it can have serious consequences for other people. I’m finding it hard to write about this section of the article, because I can still remember how this impacted the boy I went to school with and his HIV infection led to him spiralling in life and now he’s no longer with us because of a drug overdose, so that’s why I wanted to share the human impact that stealthing can potentially cause to a person.
It’s important to consider the impact our actions can have on other people. It seems as though some people have a “pump and dump” attitude, where their primary purpose is to get what they want, then leave, with the result having lifetime effects on other people. People should have the right to make their own decisions and choose what they want in life, but when they become a victim of stealthing, the ability for them to make a decision is taken away from them and this is where the issue with stealthing lies. I am contemplating bug chasing right now and even though I’m on the edge of doing it, I wouldn’t want someone to make that decision for me, because it’s my decision and I want to make it myself, because I will then be responsible for my decision and own it.
Stealthing does equal stealing, because you are taking away the ability for a person to make an informed decision when you lie to them, which could have lifetime implications for them. HIV is not something that can be cured or goes away, even though it’s true that it can be treated and lead to most people living a normal life, but HIV stays with a person for their lifetime and can create mental trauma for them. Even though stealthing might be exciting for one person involved in the action, they are not the only person involved, so we should think more about others, because it’s not only respectful, it’s the right thing to do. I’m very passionate about this, because of my beliefs about the importance of personal choice and decision making.
If you are wanting to share the gift with someone, you can still negotiate with them by being upfront and honest about what you’re wanting to do by giving the other person the opportunity to make a decision, then if they agree, then it’s no longer considered to be stealthing, as everyone involved understands what’s happening and the risks are accepted. We are all individuals and we have the right to choose what we want to do in life, but when what we do involves others against their will, it’s no longer just about us, it becomes about everyone involved, so sharing some kindness through honesty can really make us better people and may also lead to less aggression from people who judge bug chasers, gift givers and HIV-positive people in general.
This is also a good opportunity for you to get to know the laws about HIV transmission in your own part of the world. The Aidsmap article ‘HIV criminalisation laws around the world’ includes the option for you to select a particular country to view the laws and criminal cases from around the world. You can find the link to this website at the bottom of the page, along with a direct link to the Global HIV Criminalisation Database. The information varies depending on your location, but this website provides you with general information, along with a list of cases of HIV criminalisation. I have also used this website to understand the laws in my part of the world and the Public Health Act for my location states that “a person must not recklessly put someone else at risk of contracting a controlled notifiable condition (including HIV), or recklessly transmit HIV, but a person does not commit an offence if the other person knew the accused had the condition and voluntarily accepted the risk.”
This article is written for everyone, whether HIV-negative or HIV-positive, because everyone has the ability to become a stealther, which is why no particular HIV status should be singled out. Bug chasers, gift givers and HIV-positive people often get judged in life and this means the spotlight can be on us more intensely, as people like to delve into other people’s business and make judgements, which is why it’s important for us not to give anyone a reason to be right. We can still be who we are, we can chase the bug, we can offer the gift, but it’s just important to do so honestly and in compliance with the relevant laws to ensure everyone who is involved is aware and agree with what’s happening so they can accept what’s happening. We need to think about other people sometimes and not just ourselves, because that makes us a better person.
- HIV criminalisation cases recorded in 72 countries, including 49 in the last four years – https://www.aidsmap.com/news/jun-2019/hiv-criminalisation-cases-recorded-72-countries-including-49-last-four-years
- HIV criminalisation laws around the world – https://www.aidsmap.com/about-hiv/hiv-criminalisation-laws-around-world
- Global HIV Criminalisation Database – https://www.hivjustice.net/cases
Featured Photo: scholacantorum from Pixabay.
Article ID: CC021
Version Control: 1.0 – December 10, 2021: Original article published.
Thanks for your article Jason. And indeed I can join the chorus of those who disavow stealthing. Some interesting dialogue as the comments flowed. Indeed when I am in a bath house or ABS, unless I as my top it is my risk to take. Still, someday if I seroconvert, and if I am not undetectable, I think I would at least open up the discussion with the guy I am about to fuck; at a minimum “do you want to know my status before I unload in you?”.
For me, part of the heart thumping fun is not knowing until he is unloading his cum into me. For me that only happened one time So in an ABS or bathhouse, I am not bringing up the topic with my tops; at least until I have their load in me.
But of course, and I think it is clear here, that is my choice. If he wants to tell me in advance, that isn’t a deal breaker. I love cum in me no matter the status. And if he doesn’t bring it up, the fact that I didn’t as well I interpret as tacit acceptance that whatever happens, happens.
This was a great, thought provoking article, especially the concept of equating stealthing with stealing. Of course many of us who are irresistibly turned on by the whole subject of POZ sex, gifting, conversion, bio tats etc, find the fantasy of stealthing very exciting. It is the subject of lots of porn, but separating porn fantasy from reality is vital in a grown-up sex life.
Totally agree that if condom use and HIV status is discussed, whatever is decided should be respected by both parties. One party might persuade the other to go bareback during the ensuing sex and this is fine as long as it is consensual. A sex partner should always should always answer questions about status truthfully and failure to do so is a kind of rape and deeply unfair to the other party.
There are a few grey areas though. I write as a neg top/versatile guy, who after (too) many years of condom use decided to make the fantasy of barebacking a reality. I soon became very excited by the whole POZ culture, having previously been vary wary of connecting with any man that I suspected might play unsafe and after my first mind blowing hook up with a known Poz (undetectable) partner my course was set. Hearing I was not on Prep he said, “O so you are playing POZ roulette” and I had to agree I was. I was never a committed chaser in that I did not have the guts to deliberately get fucked by a known unmedicated POZ top or take multiple loads at a sauna, but neither did I do much to avoid infection. I never went on Prep and I had lots of hookups with guys where status was not discussed. Several of these guys I found out later were POZ unmedicated.
Should they have told me? I am not sure that they should. I had every chance to ask them. The hookups were enjoyable for me (and I hope them) and there was no coercion. I was very excited by the risk that I was taking and this became a regular and important part of my sex life.
So I think that in a don’t ask/don’t tell situation, particularly in a group setting or cruising area any negative guy must accept the possibility that his partner(s) are likely to be Poz and make his decision accordingly. Still, if he asks for a condom this should be respected and STOP always means stop.
I think there is one area of ‘Don’t ask/Don’t tell where an HIV Positive guy should declare himself, and that is if there is a significant difference in power dynamic between the two parties (I am not talking about power role play here). Say: a young inexperienced bottom taking on an older experienced, sexually powerful top. The bottom might be too shy or feel that it is disrespectful to ask his partner his HIV status. This does of course presuppose a degree of sensitivity and self-control on the part of the top, but I think nonetheless it should be done.
Thanks again Jason for providing this forum…. Can’t wait for the next post.
Great article once again, informative and realistic counsel to be conscious about.
I agree with Tom completely about stealthing it is just never the right thing nor the moral thing to do. It cannot ever be justified even though its fetishised and fantasised about in porn and it crops up in social media like Twitter as well to make it sound perfectly reasonable and normal, it is not. I would go further and say that whoever’s status is HIV+ and it’s no matter if they are top or bottom have the obligation to disclose this to the other party. I believe the obligation to disclose by the positive person would be in virtually all situations with very few if any exceptions. There is a saying about you have to walk in someones shoes before you understand their lives. I personally know of someone who was a top. Didn’t bareback etc except for that one time and even then we don’t know exactly what happened that day but the long and short of it was he became HIV+ and the events before and after getting that HIV test result culminated when he committed suicide because he could not cope with his status or come to terms with the implications and different scenarios that this long term medical condition was bringing into his life.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful and thought provoking article. Stealthing is never in my opinion the right and moral thing to do. It can be as you point out a wonderful fantasy both for the stealther and for the one who might be stealthed. In reality though one should never commit an act that would so radically change a person’s life without the consent of that person. It compounds the fault when the stealther has lied about their status. People argue that all bareback sex is risky and that each time one bottoms in raw sex, one should realize they are exposing themselves to hiv transmission (in this time of meds and PrEP that is not even true as much) and even taking that into account, it is wrong to lie. That is a betrayal of trust with one’s sexual partner. When one doesn’t ask, does a top have an obligation to inform. I would say in nearly all situations, yes. (The exception might be a group setting where the bottom has agreed to take all loads regardless of any risk.) Even there one might consider informing the bottom. The result might be to make the sex even hotter for the both of you.
Hi Jason thanks so much for your very fine article on this rather tabooized topic – and for me I’m a bit torn: on one side morally I don’t think to lie is cool – to tell the truth is always the best solution – almost… so if the bottom isn’t asking about your status and I am toxic: do I have to obligation to voluntarily inform him? because I find that if this guy wants my CUM – the definition in bareback sex – he knows CUM can be HIV defined so maybe guy secretly wants to get infected? and I might risk to destroy his desire by telling him upfront? On the other hand my 2 conversion guys : it was including so much talk and openness and EYE CONTACT which wouldn’t have been possible in stealthing. And: I think it’s important that I can INFORM without pointing fingers at others who have another understanding.
I could feel from your own words deep emotions regarding this issue. And Treasure Media Island has once produced a scene in which “stealthing” takes place, although we know it was a set up act, another way to explore the bareback side of sex. But to what extent does it feel right to sexualize and fantasize about “stealthing”?
I was told that all bb sex is HIV sex. No matter what the top says, a lot of the times they might not know, and if you’re a bottom not on prep it’s better to always assume all raw cocks are HIV+. So I guess they only stealthing imo is if the top puts on a condom and takes it off before he cums or lies about having one on, so if you consent to BB, you consent to HIV.
There’s also a kind of “reverse stealthing”. A Poz top can be worried about infecting someone, so a bottom can lie and say they’re on prep or something. So when you meet guys that aren’t normally gifters, it’s wicked important to be upfront about not being on meds and infectable and to help them feel ok about keeping it bare.
It is important to me that anyone who fucks me bareback is honest about their hiv status.