Insert Nu 5, and voila! Pops out three condoms!
The service can be availed from condom vending machines, which will be installed by September.
A total of 50 condom vending machines to be distributed across the country have reached Phuentsholing and are waiting quality check by Ministry of Health (MoH) officials.
Talking to Business Bhutan, the Chief Program Officer of the Communicable Disease Division, MoH, Namgay Tshering, said that the health ministry will be piloting the condom vending machines in 11 Dzongkhags, namely Thimphu, Paro, Chukha, Gelephu, Samdrup Jongkhar, Trashigang, Mongar, Bumthang, Wangduephodrang, Punakha and Trongsa.
“These 11 Dzongkhags were chosen based on the size of the population, ongoing development activities, and trade and commerce activities in the districts,” he said.
Thimphu and Chukha will get 10 condom vending machines each distributed throughout the Dzongkhags, while Gelephu and Trongsa will get five and four respectively. All the other seven Dzongkhags will get three each.
According to Namgay Tshering, for the past 10 years constantly, surveys have revealed that the usage of condoms in the country remains unsatisfactory. “It was found that condom usage among high-risk groups like high-risk women, men having sex with men, transgender community and transport workers, was very low,” he said.
To improve accessibility to condoms the health ministry decided to install condom vending machines
The machines have been customized to accept only Nu 5 notes. They will not accept any other notes besides Nu 5.
“We are not propagating to sell condoms or make profit out of it,” said Namgay Tshering, adding that the distribution of free condoms from health facilities will continue but it is just a complementary approach to the existing strategy.
The condoms in the machine are of the same brand as the ones the hospitals distribute: of good quality and approved by World Health Organization (WHO).
Namgay Tshering said that if a vending machine is in place, there will be a proper structure for uninterrupted supply of condoms 24/7. The health ministry has also prepared a standard operating procedure where it was approved during a recent commission meeting that the machines will be utilized in close partnership with the private sector.
“The vending machine will be handed over to an identified individual with an agreement that he or she will look after the machine and will be responsible to replenish the condoms every day.
Namgay Tshering also added that the money from the vending machines will be used to maintain the vending machines, pay the bill for electricity the machines consumes, and to pay the individual who takes care of the machines.
Lucky Wangmo from Thimphu