SOUTH AFRICA – Eastern Cape gets South Africa’s first SRH vending machine, plus data on surge in teen pregnancies and prevalence of HIV

US contraceptive vending machine

The first-of-its-kind vending machine stocks contraceptives, HIV kits and pregnancy tests, as well as sanitary towels. The Health Department will be handing over the self-care wellness vending machine in the Eastern Cape at Mthatha Ultra City on Wednesday.

According to National Health Department spokesperson, Foster Mohale, the vending machine is an “initiative targeting girls and women of childbearing to increase access to sexual reproductive health and HIV prevention services. 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.

“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.

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

Surge in teenage pregnancy and high numbers of people living with HIV

According to recent statistics released by South African Society of Psychiatrists, 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.

According to Statistics South Africa, the estimated overall HIV prevalence rate is about 13.9% among the South African population. The total number of people living with HIV was estimated at about 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.

‘Plan-B’ vending machines in USA

In June 2023, the Associated Press reported on morning-after pill vending machines gaining popularity in the United States since the 2022 US Supreme Court Roe v. 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.

SOURCE: The Citizen, by Cornelia Le Roux, 10 April 2024 + PHOTO by Joseph Prezioso/AFP