Saturday, 30 January 2010


‘Bugchasing’ describes the practice of actively seeking sex with HIV-positive men, with the express goal of contracting the disease oneself. It is this shocking act which is the subject of Louise Hogarth’s hour-long documentary The Gift. The film goes for the jugular in its portrayal of the facts, opening with an impassioned cry for help from Doug, a gay man who has just learnt that his promiscuity has left him with the disease. Several other case studies reveal naïveté regarding the health risks involved with unprotected sex, and a general misunderstanding of the devastating effects of being HIV-positive. We also meet the individuals who celebrate their disease, tattooing themselves with the biohazard symbol and throwing ‘conversion’ parties. Members of the LGBT community form a vox pop throughout the film to contextualise the issue in mainstream homosexual culture.

Hogarth’s exposé has the best interests at heart, but it is often hard to take seriously as some of the interviewees show a lack of solemnity for the subject. Facts and glossary definitions appear on screen embellished with excessive graphics and house music, as if glamorising the subject. HIV is mentioned repeatedly, but the film does not go far enough in illustrating how damaging it is beyond throwing out the occasional statistic. Nonetheless, it does serve as a vital cautionary tale for an apparently uninformed minority group, as well as conveying a more universal message about trust and health. The Gift provides insight on a fortunately rare practice, but could have gone further.

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