Nima Wangdi 

It is partially discoloured. The red ATM-like machine stands right in front of one of the shops along Norzin Lam, near the main traffic, in the middle of Thimphu Thromde. It is the condom vending machine (CVM) in a sad state of repair.

It has been defunct for some time now. People do not pay any attention although there are still some packets of condoms inside the machine.

Most of the CVMs are defunct. Some of the carcasses of the machine can be seen on the health ministry’s ground floor.

Public Health Department’s senior program officer, Dolley Tshering, said that 17 machines are still functional at various locations.

He said that during the assessment carried out by the department in 2019, only seven were found nonfunctional. They were repaired except for one which could not be repaired.

“We don’t have experts to repair the machines now; the last person who could do resigned from job last year,” Dolley Tshering said.

He said the machines have served their purpose. “They are too old. We will collect all the defunct machines and surrender them to the department of national properties.

He said that the CVMs are very sensitive and sometimes people do not use them with care, one of the factors that led to the malfunctioning of the machines.

The National HIV/AIDS and STIs Control Programme (NACP) installed the machines. It was a Public-Private Partnership programme, the machines were looked after by CVM managers.

Ministry officials said that the managers complained that people misused the machines by inserting papers, plastics, and pouring water on them.

Fifty condom vending machines were installed from 2017 until 2018 in 13 priority dzongkhags.

A Thimphu resident, Chimi, said that the government did its job by installing condom vending machines in different areas. “Most of them are now defunct as people did not use them responsibly. We should not expect the government to do everything for us but we should also play our own roles.”

Ministry introduced condom promotion following an increasing number of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted disease cases.

Condom promotion was first initiated through “Dechong” boxes that were placed in the hotels and entrainment venues to make it easily accessible.

There are a number of condom distribution outlets and 12 different distributing agencies with a total of 2,194 outlets based across the county.

Ministry also plans to review existing condom-distributing methods and improve them appropriately and accordingly.