Dept of Health launches contraceptive vending machines

  • The Department of Health is making it easier to access contraception and HIV testing kits.
  • Through Self-Care Wellness Vending Machine located in various locations, South Africans will be able to access birth control and other contraceptives more easily.
  • The first of these vending machines is being launched in the Eastern Cape today.

According to the World Health Organisation, sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the world. While adolescent birth rates (ABR) are dropping, this drop is slower in Latin America, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa compared to other parts of the world.

Across the African continent the ABR sits at 97 per 1 000 adolescents in 2022 compared to 13.1 in the European region. In sub-Saharan Africa specifically the ABR is 99.4 per 1000 women, far higher than the average on the continent.

With that in mind, the South African Department of Health is launching what it calls a Self-Care Wellness Vending Machine in the Eastern Cape today.

“These vending machines will carry a variety of oral contraceptives, and HIV prevention. These will be placed at easy-to-access and busy public areas such as institutions of higher learning, mall or shopping centres, SASSA points, etc across the country,” the Department of Health said in a media alert.

The oral contraceptives available at these vending machines will include Nordette, Triphasil, Microval, Ovral and emergency contraceptives such as the morning after pill. As far as HIV prevention tools, the vending machines will contain HIV self-testing kids, male and female condoms, pregnancy tests and sanitary towels.

The vending machines are being launched in response to a growing number of adolescents giving birth. The Department of Health reports that between 2020 and 2023, more than 11 500 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 have given birth in public health facilities.

“It [the Self-Care Wellness Vending Machine] is part of the ongoing efforts to improve uptake of various methods of contraception in response to the scourge of teenage pregnancy in the country,” the department said.

This looks like a fantastic initiative but its success and effectiveness will depend on a number of factors.

This includes the price of these contraceptives and how often the vending machines are restocked. The Department also has to make sure these vending are located in multiple areas while also insuring they aren’t vandalised.

We’re cautiously optimistic about this initiative though and hope that this isn’t simply electioneering from government designed to win the ruling party votes. Unfortunately the government has a habit of launching an initiative and then leaving it to fester. Let’s hope this isn’t one of those.

[Image – Gabriela Sanda from Pixabay]


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