This has to be one of the most shocking things i've read in a while. MELBOURNE detectives had little knowledge of the Pandora's Box they were about to unlock when they began investigating a Melbourne grandfather over child pornography charges in May last year. The sexual crimes squad was alerted to the allegations against Michael John Neal, 48, by case workers at the Department of Human Services. What appeared to be a run-of-the-mill investigation turned out to be a much wider probe that took police on an eye-opening journey through the seedy underbelly of Melbourne's gay community. It opened up a perverse world of high-risk sex where the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV, was often an accepted risk, sometimes worn by carriers, such as Mr Neal, as a badge of honour. Exposed was a bizarre culture inhabited by "bug chasers" - healthy men actively seeking to be infected with HIV - and "breeders" who infected them at depraved "conversion parties". One veteran detective said he had no idea of the bounds the investigation would reach. "I had no thoughts about how wide this issue was until investigating the matter," he told the Herald Sun. "I'd describe it as surprisingly shocking." The police operation, codenamed Spode, would result in the arrest and charging of the HIV-positive father of five with more than 100 charges, including attempting to infect a person with a very serious disease, intentionally infecting a person and rape.