Tinomuda Chakanyuka, Senior Reporter
THE National Aids Council is set to install 6 000 automated condom dispensing machines in hospitals, hotels, drinking spots and other public places as part of efforts to increase condom uptake as well as curb the spread of HIV in the country.
In an interview with Sunday News, NAC monitoring and evaluation director Mr Amon Mpofu said the machines will be installed by end of this year across the country in identified HIV hotspots.
A hotspot is defined as a geographical area or location with evidence of high prevalence of HIV, STIs or behaviours that put people at risk of acquiring HIV infection.
Mr Mpofu said the machines will help increase accessibility of condoms as they will be installed in public places that are easily accessible to people.
He said the condom dispensing machines are expected to increase uptake of condoms in the country.
Zimbabwe has the highest condom uptake among Eastern and Southern African (ESA) region countries with data showing that over 53 million condoms have been distributed countrywide in the first half of this year.
“We have identified hotspots, areas where we have increased sex work and areas where people are at risk of having unprotected sex. That is where we will put the machines,” said Mr Mpofu.
He added, “We are looking at installing the machines at hospitals, drinking spots and we are also targeting certain hotels located in those hotspot areas.
“Right now most places where condoms are placed are either not accessible during late hours or not friendly for people to walk in and get their condoms when they need them.”
Mr Mpofu said the condom dispensing machines will also make it easy to calculate the exact number of condoms that would have been distributed in an area over a specific period.
He said the current effort where condoms are put in toilets was not yielding the desired results.
“Most public toilets we have inspected don’t have condoms. Sometimes those responsible forget to put them there, but with a condom dispensing machine it’s different. There will be a deliberate effort to make sure that the condoms are available.
“You also have to realise that not everyone uses a public toilet. So we have to cater for those people who don’t use public toilets.
“With these machines it will become easy to count exactly how many condoms we would have distributed,” he said.
According to the Zimbabwe Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (ZIMPHIA) 2015-2016, Matabeleland region has the most new HIV infections.
Mr Mpofu said while the country has been doing well in terms of condom uptake, efforts were to do better as part of the drive to end Aids by 2020.
Zimbabwe has been leading the ESA regional agenda on HIV prevention with the country’s expected to lead the Global agenda on the same.
“We have been doing so well. Actually we have the highest condom uptake in the region and that has contributed to the decline of new HIV infections in the country.
“Our target is to put the condom uptake to 100 percent. The idea is to close the tap of new HIV infections and we can only do so by emphasising on prevention,” he said.
Mr Mpofu said the machines will be procured by NAC with the assistance of the Global Fund.
He said NAC was now working with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on the specifications of the machines before going to tender.
The country’s HIV response programme, which emphasises on HIV prevention has received regional endorsement.
Zimbabwe has managed to reduce its HIV prevalence rate from 18 to 14 percent in the last decade.
According to the latest Global Aids Update report the country is on course to meet the United Nations’ 90-90-90 targets to help end the Aids epidemic as a public health threat by 2020.