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The Teetering on the Brink Issue

There’s No Biz Like Pozbiz

Despite the ongoing efforts of HIV education and all the funny, shocking and plainly weird ads on TV and billboards (like the ones drawing parallels between food items and sexual organs) the virus is actually on the rise in Germany



Despite the ongoing efforts of HIV education and all the funny, shocking and plainly weird ads on TV and billboards (like the ones drawing parallels between food items and sexual organs) the virus is actually on the rise in Germany.

The numbers of new HIV infections has doubled within the last ten years according to Dr. N. H. Brockmeyer, head of the German STD council. MSM (men who have sex with men) represent the largest group among those newly infected (67 percent) and a study recently conducted by the Robert Koch Institute supports the logical assumption that the highest concentration of MSM, an estimated 80,000, can be found in the capital. Ten to 12 percent of Berlin’s MSM are positive and even though the study didn’t draw this exact conclusion, we have an inkling it might have something to do with Berlin’s thriving bareback scene.


Young gay men flock to the city dubbed “Barelin” from all over the place, looking for anonymous sex and the ultimate liberty to live out any cum-drenched dream that might have seemed impossible back home in their small town.

Before the internet, they’d have thrown themselves into the vibrant scene around Nollendorfplatz or cruised the bars in Motzstrasse and tried their luck in any given backroom. Now, however, popular forums such as Barebackcity and Gayromeo have broken down all barriers of communication and the general “in for a penny, in for a pound” attitude of barebackers has created an ongoing no-rubber trend.

While treatments have improved and HIV is no longer considered a death sentence, there is still considerable risk involved in contracting the virus, yet the barebackers don’t seem too concerned by this. Those already infected risk further complications by contracting a so-called super infection, which basically means contracting more than one strand of the virus, says Dr. Ulrich Marcus of the Robert Koch Institute. The most considerable risk is posed by the numerous other STDs, which not only affect an HIV-positive person more but also serve as a co-factor in raising the level of infectiousness of HIV-positive individuals.

The rate of syphilis infection in Germany has doubled within the last ten years to an estimated 3,500 cases, says Dr. Brockmeyer. Dr. Marcus says that Hepatitis C, which initially wasn’t considered to be an STD in the traditional sense, has “become” an STD within the HIV-positive community, posing a serious risk during fisting and anal sex. But despite the risks and inconvenience, not to mention the cost to the state involved in treating a life-long infection (on average around 3,000 euros a month per infectee), many barebackers consciously contract the disease or see it as simply a matter of time before they will belong to the HIV community and therefore be able to have even wilder unprotected sex with other infected men.


Ever since bugchasing was picked up by the media in 2003, it has been surrounded by myths and dismissed by naysayers who refuse to believe there are actually guys out there serious enough to do it.

FFUCK4YOU is an old-school barebacker (the term initially described only HIV-positive men having unprotected sex with other HIV-positive men) who earns a bit of money on the side as an escort by offering unprotected sex to HIV-positive men. We spent an afternoon in the Eldorado bar, drinking tea and Champagne Aperol while he gave his account of the local “poz scene” and his encounters with bugchasers, suicidal/ignorant youngsters, and frustrated seeders who refuse medication to remain as infectious as possible.

Vice: How did you get into being an escort?


Basically money issues. I’m on state welfare, which isn’t a lot of money to begin with, so at some point I thought a little extra would come in handy.

When was that?

About a year ago.

And how long have you been HIV positive?

Since 1999. I know who gave it to me. He didn’t know [he had it] at that time. It happened during a weekend session I had with my boyfriend back then. I got infected, my boyfriend didn’t.

So being HIV positive wasn’t a reason to stop you from prostituting yourself?

Not really. There are a lot of people who do it. A good friend of mine is turning 60 soon and he’s still into it, he’s got a special group of regular customers. I don’t have any personal issues with it. I’m in an open relationship for two years now, so that’s not a problem either.


You explicitly offer bareback sex: how does that work? Do people tell you they’re HIV positive?

I check out their profiles and if I can’t tell from that, I ask them.

So the initial contact is all happening online?


How much do you take?

60 euros per hour. A pretty fair price.

What kind of stuff do you offer?

The regulars. Anal, fisting, some S&M. CBT [cock and ball torture]. Working the balls over. Pissing. Stuff like that. Some stuff is more expensive, but that’s discussed beforehand. Sometimes we do the whole night, or the whole weekend.

Where do you meet your clients?

Depends. Usually in hotel rooms, sometimes at their flats.

And how often do you earn some extra money like that?

Sporadically. Like one or two weekends a month. Sometimes during the week too.

HIV is one thing, but what about all the other STDs: ever had any issues with other infections?

A couple of years ago I caught Hepatitis C. That really knocked me out. I got it three times, each time with a worse type of the virus and I had to undergo interferon treatment for a full year each time. I’m way more careful now. I don’t just hook up and make out with anyone I meet anymore.

Have you always had bareback sex?

Pretty much. I always knew what I was getting myself into. Especially once I got my positive test result. I couldn’t really be with my boyfriend any more after that. I didn’t want to get him infected and told him so. He didn’t care and said I should go ahead, but I didn’t want that. So we broke up.


So he wanted to get infected by you?

Yes. But I said no. I wouldn’t do that. A couple of years later it happened to me, though. Someone was negative and I infected them.

Did you know he was negative?

I didn’t. I only found out afterwards. He reacted in a very mature way and said, “It was my fault, I wanted it that way. It’s not your fault.”

Did he lie to you and tell you he was positive?

We met online and I always stated “safe sex on demand” on that page. My profile also said I’m HIV positive. So if someone chats me up I assume they know what they’re getting themselves into.

So that guy knew for sure that you’re HIV positive?

Yes, right away.

Did you find out his motivations?

I think he wanted to get closer to me that way, create more commitment.

You had a relationship with the guy?

It was more from his side than from mine. I liked him but that wasn’t enough for a relationship.

Do you think he wanted it, though?

I think so. He never wanted to use protection. So it was probably a welcome occasion to become able to do it on a regular basis without any problems.

Is that a common motivation to get infected?

Very often, yes. I see that on these sites a lot. Young, negative guys writing to me, all like “Come on, poz me!” So I usually play a game with them and start talking to them, to find out why they want it and why they think it’s so great or why it turns them on so much. And after a while I let the cat out of the bag.


What do you say to them?

I tell them I have been positive for 12 years now and that it’s not fun going to check-ups all the time, never knowing if you‘ve caught any additional viruses. HIV isn’t like having the flu that’s gone in two weeks. You’ll have the virus for the rest of your life, living in your body. When you look at people who have had it for a while, you can always tell. Then it’s usually on to drugs. Lots of them give themselves up and move from one darkroom to the next. That’s not a normal life anymore. It’s all about vegetating.

What do they say when you ask why they do it?

“I want to be part of it. I want the thrill. I want to have as much cum as I can. I don’t like rubbers.” It seems like the AIDS enlightenment missed these people.

How old are these guys?

Some guys are 17 or 18. Sometimes they’re older, like they should really know better.

What would you do if a negative guy pretended they’re positive and you only found the truth out afterwards.

That’s difficult. You can never really tell because you usually won’t see them again anyway. I definitely don’t want to be anyone’s angel of death, though.

Can we go back to these young guys writing to you. Do they come across as somewhat informed, do they ask for specifics, like your virus load, for example?

They’re relatively dumb. They’re ignorant, and when I see that I try to educate them about the problems involved, never being able to live without medication and so on. But there’s also people who seem to do it just for the kicks. They advertise themselves in the chat room to see what the reaction will be and maybe have a wank while they’re at it.


“Virtual bugchasing”, so to speak?

Exactly. There are so many profiles with fake photos too, where people just pretend as if and wank off.

So it’s like fetishising the virus?

Yes, the virus is the fetish.

Can you describe these people in more detail?

I usually make an effort to look behind the facade. I ask them, “Why do you want to become positive? Do you have problems at home? Do you want to free yourself? Are you just looking for the thrill?” Usually they open up when you’re sensitive.

And the reasons they come up with are of the kind you just listed?

Pretty much. All sorts of things. Just the thrill. “All my friends fuck bare and they’re positive and I want to belong to them” or “I don’t want to live anymore. I don’t like my life. I don’t get along in school”, stuff like that.

Seems like some of them consider the bareback community an exclusive club; it’s almost got this elitist notion to it.

Well, that’s what they think, but it’s not. You’re doomed to become an outsider, even if there are more and more positive people every day.

What does your current boyfriend think of it all?

He has a bunch of special friends because he likes doing more extreme stuff than me, so that’s a good solution.

What exactly do you mean by “more extreme”?

Well, he has a bunch of additional preferences. Slamming, for example. Taking drugs intravenously, for example. Doing blow.

That‘s his sexual preference?

Yeah, it helps him let go. Then it’s on to tougher S&M things from there. Crawling around on the ground as a slave and doing everything his master demands. He’s submissive. I’m personally really into fisting. I was introduced to it by a friend years ago and got really into it. That’s why I have the double F in my nickname. A friend used to say, “Fisting means touching someone’s soul really deep within”, and I thought that’s fantastic. It really is like that. I have a friend I do that with a lot, who also works as an escort. It’s a wonderful, fantastic thing. You need a lot of trust and sensibility for that. It’s a very sensitive area you’re putting your hand in, you can damage a lot in there. That’s why it’s really important to be one with your partner, eye to eye all the time. To sense the slightest resistance and go back immediately. That’s the greatest thing for me, I don’t even need to fuck when I do that. I could do that for hours because I enjoy it so much.


Is your boyfriend positive?

We’ve been together for two and a half years and he’s been positive for a year now.

Do you know where he got it from?

Not from me. We’ve always had an open relationship and he’s always been messing around with others. It wasn’t my fault in his case.

How do you deal with each other’s flings? Do you talk about it at all?

Usually I drive him to his dates and pick him up afterwards. It’s better that way. When he’s taking different things I don’t want to have him out on the street in that state. He’s got a bunch of special friends for his special preferences. I don’t even ask what exactly he’s doing, but I can imagine what it’s like. I know what he’s into and I can see the results.

Did you have unprotected sex with him before he got it?

Yes, we did. But my viral load is below the detection limit due to medication, so it’s virtually impossible to infect someone.

So your boyfriend got it from someone else. Did it ever cross your mind he might have done that on purpose?

I guess he consciously accepted it, but I don’t think it was intentional.

What do you think of people who actually do it intentionally?

That’s something I really detest or, rather, what makes me really sad. You look at these people in the darkrooms, always the same guys, every night, every week. Or I see the same guys online all the time, being like, “Pump me full, pump me full”, and then watching these people over the years as they decay is pretty awkward and sad. Many of my friends have died. At some point the body just can’t take it any longer.


There are so many young positive people in the forums though, they can’t have all done it on purpose.

Well, some get it through drugs, many of them have been raped, but a lot of them have also been stupid, drunk too much or gone to a bar and just didn’t care whether or not a condom was used. There are so many ways to get infected.

Coming back to the idea of the virus being a fetish, have you ever come across people who take pride in their infection and their virus load? Who would rather celebrate than medicate it?

Yeah, there’s a lot of profiles like that online, on barebackcity for example. “Virus catapult” or “combat catapult” they call themselves, or “poz-pariah” or stuff like that. People who collect as many bugs as possible.

Have you ever met one of these guys?

I tend to avoid them by all means. I don’t want to have anything to do with people like this. Some of them send me messages and I check out their profiles, but when I see stuff like “viral load >10,000” or even “1,000,000”, I don’t want to have anything to do with them.

Do you think the “seeders” have the same kind of motivation as the bugchasers?

Many of them don’t have any support system anymore. They don’t get along with their families, they’re alone and some don’t have a job anymore, they live off state welfare or something. They’re on the bottom rung. Some of them say, “I’ll just give myself up now. When I’m dead, I’m dead, and if I take someone else with me, so what? I don’t give a fuck. They infected me, so I’ll do the same now.”


Sounds like this classic literary concept of self-destruction. How do they actually make it work?

Well, there’s clubs along the lines of “Poz me up” and poz parties where people meet to exchange all sorts of bugs, like, “Give me gonorrhoea, syphillis, Hepatitis C and whatever else that’s going around. Chlamydia. Let’s swap germs.”

Does that really exist or is it an urban legend?

It really does exist.

Even outside these forums, in real life?

Definitely. The forums just serve as initial points of contact, but people actually do throw parties or rent clubs for that purpose. It’s all out there. There’s nothing perverted that you can imagine that isn’t happening.

Sounds suicidal

It is suicidal.

What role do you think the internet plays in the spread of STDs?

Things have exploded, as you can see. There are more and more infected people. Berlin is so anonymous and lots of guys from the whole country move here to be uninhibited in this openminded and tolerant city. So the internet has served as a catalyst, for sure.

Do you think bugchasing came up because of the internet?

I think it’s been around ever since people heard of HIV, Rock Hudson and Liberace for the first time. But the technique makes things easier, of course. They’re more accessible.

Have you ever considered turning your back on the whole bareback scene, so to speak? I mean, there’s a correlation between HIV and the bareback scene. One sort of depends on the other…

That never hindered me from having bareback sex. I just like doing it and I try my best to behave decently and not overdo it. I’m not obsessed with parties or the big events like Christopher Street Day, Leather Day and stuff like that, where thousands of people fuck around like crazy.