FLASHBLOOD, a new trend of drug of and substance abuse has reportedly emerged among Murambinda based sex workers where desperate drug users deliberately inject themselves with another addict’s blood in an effort to share the intoxication.
By Michael Gwarisa recently in Murambinda
Flashblood is a syringe full of blood passed from someone who has just injected heroin to someone else who injects it in lieu of heroin. In Buhera District, novice and young sex workers have reportedly been practicing flashblood or bluetoothing as it is known in other parts of Africa where it is practiced. The young sex workers are reportedly engaging in the practice as a means of garnering confidence to approach male clients as well as to match their ever changing demands which of late have included anal sex and blow jobs.
Even though an uncommon practice on Zimbabwean soil, Flashblood has been documented among Heroin users in some parts of Africa namely Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on the island of Zanzibar and in Mombasa, Kenya. In South Africa, the practice is called Bluetoothing and is common among Nyaope users from the slums of Diepsloot.
Speaking to Journalists on the side-lines of a media tour that was organised by the National AIDS Council (NAC) in Manicaland province, Tafadzwa Dinga, a Microplanner under the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) funded Microplanning program being implemented by NAC said the incidence of drug and substance abuse was on an upward trend especially in young sex workers.
Young sex workers are taking drugs. When we ask them they usually don’t divulge that they use drugs but the evidence will be there. Some of the common drugs being taken by these youngsters include Gukka Makafela, Bronclear (Ngomwa) and Marijuana. We are also hearing that young sex workers are now injecting each other’s blood to get high. They take blood from an intoxicated peer and deliberately inject into themselves, we have been hearing of such cases of late and we are still investigating,” said Tafadzwa.
She added that young sex workers below the age 25 were classified as a high risk group and exposure to drug and substance abuse exposes them to further danger of HIV infection.
“When we work as microplanners, we classify sex workers into groups. We have medium groups sex workers, we have low risk and high risk individuals. Most sex workers belong to the medium and high risk groups. We make sure that every week, we pay this person under the high risk group a visit so as to encourage them to use condoms correctly and consistently. We also take them for VIAC screening as well as STI screening.
“What makes a person be classified as high risk is the age. If one is below 25, she is classified as a high risk person. If a person is new in the sex work business she is also classified as a high risk. If she services 10 and above clients per single night then she is a high risk person. Inconsistent condom use also makes one a high risk person. If she takes drugs, we also classify her as high risk.”
According to studies however, the risk of getting or transmitting HIV is very high if an HIV-negative person uses injection equipment that someone with HIV has used. This is because the needles, syringes, or other injection equipment may have blood in them, and blood can carry HIV. HIV can survive in a used syringe for up to 42 days, depending on temperature and other factors.
Another mircroplanner in Murambinda, Angela Matizanadzo said it is not surprising that young sex workers are now using drugs because clients have been making unusual demands such as blow jobs and anal sex which has resulted in some girls developing anal Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).
“We are having a problem especially amongst our young sex workers. Some of them are new and can’t say no to certain demands. Of late, clients have been demanding anal sex and blow jobs. For experienced sex workers, they know that it’s risky to have anal sex and oral sex but our young girls are at a disadvantage.
“It becomes a challenge when they fall sick like for example recently we lost one young sex worker to an STI. She had developed an STI in her anal area but was shy to tell the healthcare workers what she was feeling and that she had been engaging in anal sex sex with clients. She kept it a secret until the time of her death that is when it was discovered that she had developed some warts and STIs in her anal area,” said Angela.
Meanwhile, Belinda Takwariwa, the District AIDS Coordinator (DAC) for Buhera District said microplanners are sex workers who have been trained and empowered to be leaders of other sex workers.
“As NAC in Buhera, we are implementing three sex worker programs. One of the programs that we are implementing is the key populations program where we focus on sex workers. We have three types of these programs, we have one which is being funded by CeSHHAR In Ward 33 Birchenough. Here in Murambinda we have two programs, the Microplanning programme which is being funded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) through NAC and another program is the National AIDS Trust Fund (NATF) sex worker program.
“Each microplanner has an average of 35 to 40 sex workers whom they track everyday. The reason we have this microplanner program is because we have agreed that sex work is a community that is isolated and reaching them is not easy. That is why we trained sex workers to be champions and reach out to their peers in this program,” said Takawira.
She added that the programm has an economic empowerment aspect where micropalnners are trained to run self-help projects and businesses. The micro planner program also distributes condoms, PrEP and PEP among sex workers.