Condom vending machines to suit shy customers

The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and the Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust (HLFPPT) on Tuesday installed two vending machines in the city as part of a 'condom normalisation campaign'. Unlike the earlier red box-like Condom Vending Machines (CVM), these electromechanic machines installed at Bandup and Kamathipura will provide other general commodities like soaps and snacks too.

The campaign was launched to promote condom sales in the run-up to the monsoon as it is believed that commercial sex sees a spurt during rainy season. The idea is to camouflage the process of buying a condom with other general commodities. "When we installed 3000 CVMs in Mumbai and Thane, we observed that people were still apprehensive about being noticed while operating the machine. So this is an attempt to camouflage the process of buying a condom by providing other things too," said Rajesh Nainakwal, partnership manager for HLFPPT, which is providing technical support to the Maharashtra State AID Control Society (MSACS) through its Maharashtra Condom Social Marketing Project (MCSMP) funded by the USAID.

"Earlier CVMs were small and installed at public toilets and railway stations. But many anti-social elements have tampered with these machines. The new machines are big. As they will dispense other consumable products too, we can put them in more visible places. The consumer can also buy condoms without being embarrassed that someone may notice him," said Shantaram Kuladkar, project director, MDACS.

NACO and its Mumbai district Aids Control Society (MDACS) are planning to launch 10 such machines across the city. "We are in talks with the airport officials to install one such machine at the airport. Prominent railway stations, call centres, resorts, hotels, corporate houses and hospitals should also have such machines," said Nainakwal.

Of the 3,000 CVMs installed six months ago, 400 have been stolen or vandalised by people for fun or their personal profit.

"As many as 105 machines of the 400 non-functional machines were stolen and the rest were vandalised. We have lodged FIRs against the miscreants," said Nainakwal.

"The new machine is big and we will employ a person to take care of it. This will help curb the thefts too," he said.

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