As many men in the community become condom weary, and some even consciously desire HIV infection, disturbing new trends of risky behavior have pushed the rate of new infections back into a rapid rise, all to the mantra of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Using Internet sites for promotion and connection, a community of barebackers (those who have sex without a condom) is flourishing. This includes bug chasers who host conversion parties where men actively seek the gift of HIV infection.
Doug, a central character of the film, is a bright, articulate young man who moved from the Midwest to San Francisco in search of a gay community. He became a bug chaser and actively sought the gift of HIV infection. When Doug became infected with the virus, he felt a sense of belonging to a community. He is now dealing with the unexpected severity of his illness.
Also featured in the documentary is noted psychoanalyst and community activist Walt Odets, MD, author of In the Shadow of the Epidemic. Dr.Odets examines the loss, grief and anxiety experienced by HIV negative
men living with the AIDS epidemic, and he speaks out about why prevention has failed and what needs to be done.
It is the filmmakers’ hope that The Gift will create dialogue within the community and raise awareness of the issues of isolation and division in the gay community around HIV status, thereby leading to a renewed prevention effort.