In years gone by Tourism South Africa (TSA) adopted and used to use a slogan or tag-line that South Africa Is Alive With Possibilities. When they came up with that memorable slogan, I do not think that they had in mind one of Mzansi’s most recent innovation in the usage of the illicit drug by Nyaope drug addicts from the Black African townships in the greater Tshwane Metropolitan Area.
Nyaope drug addicts from black townships of Soshanguve, Mamelodi, Mabopane and surrounds routinely share blood to share drug highs, a new cost-effective way to stretch their drug spending, especially when they are short of funds. In this arguably world first trend of drug intake to feed their drug addiction, two youths who are drug addicts, who have trust on each other’s health status, especially with respect to HIV infection after having gone to the clinics to check on their HIV status engage in a weird and dangerous practice, whereby one of them will mix a powder of Nyaope drug cocktail. They often use a lid of a cold-drink bottle to mix the Nyaope powder with small amounts of water, and then they infuse the mixed product into the veins of one of them after the recipient’s arm has been tied to make the veins more prominent and visible to be used as entry points for the drugs. Within a few seconds of injecting the Nyaope drug, the recipient of the Nyaope infusion then withdraws his blood into a syringe and immediately injects his blood with high levels of the Nyaope drug into his friend’s veins, thereby sharing the Nyaope high, a practice that is called Blue Toothing.
Although these young drug addicts swear that they only share blood with trusted friends that they know are HIV negative, the possibility of others being HIV infected but still in the Window Period is very high, as they may have engaged in risky sexual activity wherein precautions for safe sex may have been forgotten or simply disregarded. Of more concern, over and above the risk of HIV infection, is that this new drugs intake practice may result in the transmission of a wide variety of other blood blood-borne infections like Hepatitis B and C, Malaria and many other types of bacteria, viruses and fungi or protozoa infections. In view of the many blood-borne infections that these young drug addicts expose themselves to with the ‘Blue Toothing’ drug practice, this newest craze is a very dangerous practice that puts their lives at serious risk of life-threatening systemic illnesses, some of which can cause cancer like Hepatitis B.
From a medical point of view, this drug intake practice poses serious public health challenges, and practices like the Needle Exchange Programmes, that have helped to reduce HIV infection transmissions globally, including here at home, this practice will not benefit from new needles being issued as the practice itself is based on sharing of blood to achieve a shared drug high. These youths demand our collective wisdom on how to get them off the drugs, and most of them are in that situation because of unemployment, poverty and other social ills, and we cannot turn the tide if as a nation we do not come up with sustainable solutions to the underlying predisposing and perpetuating social ills that drove them into the drugs intake.
What do you think South Africa needs to do to limit and discourage this deadly practice of ‘Blue Toothing’ which I liken to the potentially deadly game of Russian Roulette?