We ignore this horrific practice at our peril - Times LIVE
Fri Apr 28 16:09:13 SAST 2017

We ignore this horrific practice at our peril

The Times Editorial | 2017-02-03 06:45:42.0
Nyaope addicts injects the blood of a fellow user into his veins in a new trend called 'Bluetooth'.
Image by: Judas Hlongwane

When we thought that every horror that could be imagined in South African society had already reared its head, along comes an apocalyptic nightmare.

When it first surfaced it seemed to be the stuff of urban legend: nyaope addicts in Soshanguve, north of Pretoria, were so desperate for a hit that they were syringing blood from high drug users and injecting it into themselves to share the high.

But this vampire-like tale is no urban legend, as our reporter established earlier this week, speaking to drug users practising what they call "bluetooth" and witnessing it first-hand. We have published a video on our site showing it.

Health authorities are understandably shocked. Sharing of syringes among addicts is risky enough; injecting another person's blood almost certainly guarantees contracting HIV/Aids or hepatitis B and C, among other potentially fatal diseases.

We ignore this at our peril.

This week's disclosures around the Gauteng mental health patient scandal in which at least 94 have died illustrates well the consequence of bad policy and what happens when we turn our backs on vulnerable sections of society.

Those addicted to drugs are among the most vulnerable, yet our official policies offer little pragmatic solutions for the blood-injecting nyaope addicts of Soshanguve.

Is giving an addict a state-sponsored high a greater risk than an explosion in hepatitis B or HIV/Aids which will then become a serious public health crisis?

State-sanctioned programmes like the Step Up needle exchange project are moves in the right direction. As are the serious debates now starting to happen around the decriminalisation of certain drugs.

But the chilling story from Soshanguve reminds us that it is only a matter of time before more unimaginable horrors emerge, along with their consequences.


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