Date of Award

May 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Patricia E. Stevens

Committee Members

Barbara Daley, Aaron Buseh, Christine Kovach, Sarah Morgan


Bug Chasing, Gay Men, HIV, Life Experiences, Narrative Analysis, Queer Theory


Hidden deep within the gay male underground lives a small population of gay men who imagined the intentional pursuit of HIV as a means to some end. In terms of nursing care for such marginalized pockets of gay men, most nurses are unaware of their existence or lack sufficient knowledge and compassion to care for this population. Bug chaser is a metaphor used to describe the gay men who intentionally sought the bug--HIV infection. Essential to caring for these men is first discovering them, and then understanding them.

The purpose of this narrative study was to understand the life experiences of gay men who intentionally sought or seek to become infected with HIV. Using queer theory as its framework, the study was constructed from two research questions: 1) What are the life-stories of gay men who seek HIV infection? 2) How do these life-stories describe and give meaning to sexuality and HIV? In this qualitative study, 18 adult gay men were interviewed three times over a period of three months. Chain referral sampling wherein initial participants spread word of the study in their associate networks limited racial diversity; 15 men self-identified as African American, one as "other" (i.e., Italian and African American), one as Latino, and one as Caucasian. Their ages ranged from 33 years to 61 years (M=48). Most considered themselves Christians (n=13). Socioeconomically, 10 of the men lived in poverty. Sixteen were HIV positive; two were pursuing HIV. Most (n=16) secured health care through one of the Medicare or Medicaid products.

Through semi-structured interviews and narrative analyses, their life stories portray who these men were and why they imagined HIV to be a fitting means to an end. Results illustrate that the intentional pursuit of HIV was well thought out and strategically planned, and aligned with lifetime struggles, for example, difficulty accepting one's gay identity. Narrative life patterns that culminated in purposeful pursuit of HIV included addictions, wanting to connect to an HIV positive lover, childhood abuses, secrets, punishment for wrongdoings, and, in one case, HIV as an imagined progression for gay men.

Included in

Nursing Commons