Khutsi Malala leads the walk from Johannesburg to Soshanguve.

In an effort to fight the blood-sharing practice called bluetooth among nyaope addicts, The Clean Up Squad and Thandanani Drop Off Centre staged their second annual Long Walk from Joburg to Soshanguve on Friday and Saturday.

The Clean Up Squad, based in Soshanguve, enlisted Thandanani Drop Off Centre in Mamelodi to highlight the increasing numbers of HIV cases caused by the blood-sharing practice in Tshwane.

Through the two-day 106km walk they wanted to raise funds for the Fetsa Tlala Agricultural Community Project, which will see former nyaope users employed on farms in Tshwane.

The activists started the walk from Grayston Drive in Sandton and proceeded to Tshwane, where they visited bluetooth hot spots in Marabastad, Mamelodi and Soshanguve, where users were given information on available rehab centres, clothes and food.

Founder of the Clean Up Squad Khutsi Malala said it was time something was done to alleviate the problem.

“The reason we chose to do this is that most youngsters who are bluetooth nyaope addicts and exchanging blood between themselves are HIV positive.

“They are getting their legs amputated because they are incorrectly using the syringes,” he said.

He urged the government, the private sector and the community to get involved.

“In the beginning, nyaope was a drug used by young boys, but now we see young female prostitutes also experimenting with the drug,” he said.

The concerned community groups came together to form the walk and the agriculture project after bluetooth nyaope made news in February 2017 when Malala broke the story of how addicts were exchanging their blood in efforts to share the high. Since then, the situation has spiralled out of control, with more sex workers injecting themselves with other users’ blood. This has caused widespread fear that this practice is increasing the spread of HIV.

Research conducted by Sefako Makgatho University showed that all bluetooth nyaope users who consulted at George Mukhari Hospital had tested positive for HIV.

Malala said they intended to take about 200 addicts to rehab facilities. They have secured a piece of land and both NPOs are calling on donors to assist with developing the agriculture project. Wholesalers like Big Save have pledged to assist in the Fetsa Tlala Agricultural Community Project.

The Sunday Independent