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By Cornelia Le Roux

Digital Deputy News Editor

Eastern Cape gets SA’s first contraception and HIV kit vending machine

The first-of-its-kind vending machine stocks contraceptives, HIV kits, pregnancy tests, as well as sanitary towels.

The Health Department will be handing over a self-care wellness vending machine in the Eastern Cape at Mthatha Ultra City on Wednesday.

The handover and launch will be conducted by the Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, together with the Eastern Cape MEC for Health, Nomakhosazana Meth.

Dhlomo and Meth will also oversee the actual demonstration to the public of how these vending machines work.

Vending machines provide contraception, HIV prevention services

According to National Health Department spokesperson, Foster Mohale, the vending machine is the first of its kind in South Africa.

“This initiative is targeting girls and women of childbearing to increase access to sexual reproductive health and HIV prevention services,” Mohale explained.

“It is also to reduce unplanned pregnancies, which lead to unsafe abortion.”

Eastern Cape Health Department spokesperson, Sizwe Kupelo, said the Deputy Minister and the MEC will oversee the actual demonstration to the public of how these vending machines work.

What will vending machines stock and where to find them

“These vending machines will carry a variety of oral contraceptives such as Nordette, Triphasil, Microval, Ovral, and emergency contraceptives/morning after pill and HIV prevention, such as HIV self-testing kit, lubricants, male and female condoms, pregnancy test and sanitary towels,” said Eastern Cape Health Department spokesperson, Sizwe Kupelo.

These will be placed at easy-to-access and busy public areas such institutions of higher learning, mall or shopping centres, Sassa points, etc across the country,” said Kupelo.

ALSO READ: 6 benefits of using contraception for you – and the country

Alarming surge in teenage pregnancy

According to recent statistics released by South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP), Christmas Day 2023 saw 145 out of 1 708 births attributed to teenage mothers, while New Year’s Day recorded a staggering 190 teenage births, including two 14-year-olds from KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces.

The numbers are indicative of a broader and alarming trend of teenage pregnancy in South Africa, with a staggering 90 000 pregnancies recorded for girls aged between 10 and 19 between April 2021 and March 2022, escalating to more than 150 000 in the 2022/2023 financial year.

HIV/Aids in SA

According to Statistics South Africa, the estimated overall HIV prevalence rate is approximately 13.9% among the South African population.

The total number of people living with HIV was estimated at approximately 8.45 million in 2022. For adults aged 15–49 years, an estimated 19.6% of the population is HIV positive.

  • People seeking assistance and more information on living with HIV/Aids, can contact the Health Department’s HIV/Aids Helpline on 0800 012 322.

ALSO READ: How to prevent HIV/Aids

‘Plan-B’ vending machines in US

In June 2023, AP reported on morning-after pill vending machines gaining popularity in the United States (US) since the landmark 2022 US Supreme Court Roe vs Wade ruling ended constitutional protections for abortion.

The vending machines are stocked with ibuprofen, pregnancy tests and the morning-after pill.

With some states enacting abortion bans and others enshrining protections and expanding access to birth control, the machines are part of a push on college campuses to ensure emergency contraceptives are cheap and widely available.

NOW READ: Rising teenage pregnancies spark mental health crisis, urgent action needed, says SASOP