Health department launches contraceptives vending machine in EC  

Generic image of pads, condoms, pills on pink background
The machine will bring products closer to those who need them most.

The health department on Wednesday launched a vending machine that will dispense a range of sexual and reproductive health products including contraceptive pills, condoms and sanitary pads for free.

The machine is stationed at the Ultra City petrol station on the N2 in Mthatha, Eastern Cape (EC). It is stocked with items such as oral contraceptives, emergency contraceptives, HIV self-testing kits, lubricant, male and female condoms, pregnancy tests, and sanitary towels.

The launch comes at a time when the province is grappling with a scourge of teenage pregnancy. For example, the EC recorded 37 births by teenagers between the age of 15 and 19 on Christmas Day alone. In the 2022/2023 financial year, the province recorded more than 500 teenagers falling pregnant. 

This has been the pattern around the country. Between 2020 and 2023 more than 11,500 girls between 10 and 14 years old gave birth in public health facilities, according to the national health department.  

Mkhululi Ndamase, spokesperson for the EC health MEC, says he is confident that these machines will help to reduce the rates of teenage pregnancy, new HIV infections, and other sexually transmitted infections.  

“Young people don’t often find it easy to go to health facilities for these services. This is despite there being more than 500 youth friendly zones in the province which are designated areas at primary healthcare facilities where young people go for services.” 

These machines, he says, will be user friendly and easily accessible for the targeted groups. 

Targeted roll-out 

For now two machines will be placed in the EC. 

Over the next few weeks a total of 13 machines will be placed in five provinces, these are: Mpumalanga, North West, Limpopo and the Northern Cape. The machines will be placed in high-traffic areas such as shopping malls and SASSA pay points. 

“We promote the use of these machines and the benefits of saving costs for community members and time to the nearest health facilities,” says Foster Mohale, the national health spokesperson. 

Mohale says the machines will also benefit wider communities by reducing the time they spend in health facilities and save costs on trips to clinics and hospitals. To access the products users will have to contact a call centre. A health worker will, via the call centre,  assess the user and check which contraceptive method is most suitable. Thereafter the user will get a code to enter into the machine and get the relevant product. 

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Welcomed innovation

Indiphile Qwase (23) is a student at Walter Sisulu University’s Mthatha campus, which is a walking distance from where the vending machine is placed. She believes that the machines will help most students who are coming from disadvantaged backgrounds and who depend mostly on the National Student Finncial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). 

“The machines will not only assist me, but will be in the best interests of every student coming from a poor background,” she says. “Sometimes NSFAS takes time to release funds and you find that you don’t even have money to buy pads, so having this machine will honestly help.” 

As a young person Qwase says she sometimes finds it hard to go to the clinic and ask for contraceptives, as she feels that she will be judged. So being able to access the medication without going into a clinic will be a bonus.   

Ayabukwa Lutye (20), from Mthatha explains that going to the clinic and asking for contraceptives is a challenge for her.  “Asking for contraceptives in a public clinic at my age feels like you are asking for something big and the nurses become too judgemental, hence I sometimes miss my appointments.” 

Lutye hopes that the machines will be user friendly and hopefully never run out of products as that will negatively affect her. 

Mohale says healthcare workers in the districts, sub-districts, and health facilities will manage and refill the machines to avoid it running empty. – Health-e News


  • Oratile Kekana

    Oratile is a journalism graduate from the Tshwane University of Technology. Her journalism journey began at Zebediela FM, where she worked as a news reader. At university, she joined TUT FM as a presenter and producer. She later interned at the Polokwane Observer, where she worked as a general reporter and photographer. In her free time, she’s also a TikTok content creator.

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