Two Health Officials Say They Were Misquoted In Rolling Stone Article on Men Seeking HIV Infection Through Unprotected Sex
Two health officials who were interviewed for an article in the Feb. 6 issue of Rolling Stone that examines how some HIV-negative men seek HIV infection through sex with HIV-positive people who are "willing to infect" them said they were misquoted and that many attributions were "made up," a Newsweek web exclusive reports (Mnookin, Newsweek, 1/23). The article quotes Dr. Bob Cabaj, the director of behavioral-health services for San Francisco County, as saying that "at least 25% of all newly infected gay men" are either intentionally seeking HIV infection or are "actively seeking HIV but are in denial and wouldn't call themselves 'bug-chasers,'" a phrase used to describe those who purposefully seek HIV infection through unprotected sex. However, Cabaj said, "That's totally false. I never said that," adding that there is "no way of knowing what percentage of gay men are looking to get infected but that it's likely very small," Newsweek reports. Dr. Marshall Forstein, medical director of mental health and addiction services at Fenway Community Health clinic in Boston, is the only other doctor quoted in the article who agrees that bug-chasing is a "significant phenomenon," but according to Newsweek, Forstein said that the quote stating that the Fenway health system "regularly" sees bug-chasers and that the "phenomenon is growing" is "entirely a fabrication." Forstein said that he told the article's author, Gregory Freeman, that the system has "seen a few cases, but we have no idea how common this is" and it is "not very common" (Newsweek, 1/23). Cathy Renna, a spokesperson for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, who was quoted in the article, said that the story was "groundless" and added that "it was not helpful," the Washington Times reports. According to Shana Krochmal, a spokesperson for the San Francisco-based Stop AIDS Project, the statistics in the Rolling Stone article are "inaccurate." She added that bug-chasing is "a relatively uncommon behavior" (Sorokin, Washington Times, 1/24). However, Freeman said he "stands by his story," and Rolling Stone Managing Editor Ed Needham said that he "stands by" Freeman and his fact checker, adding that he "looked at the notes" and has "total confidence in the story." Needham said he did not know why Cabaj and Forstein would claim that they were misquoted. "I can only guess that now that ["bug-chasing"] is getting a lot of attention, people are getting worried," Freeman said. "It's an unpleasant topic," he added (Newsweek, 1/23).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.