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The word itself conjures the idea of something not-so-good, and the description confirms it.

Flashblooding is the practice of injecting oneself with the blood of another person — a person who immediately prior shot him or herself up with heroin — with the intention of sharing the high, or at least staving off some withdrawal symptoms.

And yes, it’s real.   Researchers backed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse discovered the practice in Tanzania, Kenya, and Zanzibar recently, and many expect that it happens in other parts of Africa as well.  It’s most often practiced by addicts who are also extraordinarily poor, even by African standards.  It is by no means common (thankfully!), but the impact can nonetheless be huge, given Africa’s already rampant AIDS and HIV epidemic.

And it may not actually be effective.  While those who practice flashblooding attest to feeling highs and, at times, even passing out, the flashblooder is actually only injecting about a teaspoon of blood into a five-quart sea.  The resulting “high” may just be nothing more than the placebo effect.

Regardless as to its efficacy, flashblooding has taken a grip with some sub-Saharan African communities, making the battle against HIV and AIDS there even more difficult than before.

Bonus fact: You can buy blood in other forms, too.  In India, cricket superstar Sachin Tendulkar, has a book coming out in February.  For $75,000, you can get an autographed copy – signed in blood.

From the Archives: Fangs for the Blood: Vampire bats share.

Related:  ”The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels and the Business of AIDS” by Elizabeth Pisani. Shared here because Pisani is a leading epidemiologist and expert on the propagation of HIV.  Also: view her TED talk from 2010 on the subject of needle-sharing (among other things).

Originally published

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