Prospective clients have branded condom vending machines as unreliable citing instances of breakdowns and lack of condoms.
Population Service International (PSI) Rwanda installed at least 68 machines in washrooms at various social places, busy nightspots and four universities, countrywide, to increase condom accessibility to sections of the population that need them most.
The NGO also retained the responsibility of maintaining and refilling the machines, with plans to lease them out to bar owners, in future, for closer management.
Roger Remera, one of the complainants, told The New Times that he was frustrated by the fact that the machines were often empty making them unreliable.
“Sometime back, I tried to help a friend buy a condom from one of the machines, but it was empty. A week later, I tried another one at a different outlet it was also empty. I was surprised when a cleaner there told me that lately, the machines were rarely stocked at the pub.”
An employee at La Planet Club in Kigali, who preferred anonymity said: “The machines are mismanaged; even when we inform PSI, they can even take a month without refilling them, and our clients take it on us.”
Benjamin Rugo of Cadillac Nightclub, said that their patrons regularly complain of lack of condoms and have started carrying their own.
When reached for comment, Cyrus Ndangamira, an official in charge of the programme at PSI, claimed that people are ignorant on how the vending machines operate, despite the guiding instructions inscribed on them, and end up failing to extract the condoms.
“Vending machines are manual and new to users; some people fail to use them and think that they are un-stocked due to their set-up,” he explained.
But another potential client who only identified himself as Pierre, also said that some machines no longer function.
“I have tried to buy condoms from machines like the one at Cadillac Coffee shop and Papyrus, but the coins could not even enter.”
In response, Ndangamirwa says that some of the machines sometimes get minor mechanical problems because of their electronic nature but are fixed once information is relayed to PSI.
He underscored that the projected leasing of the machines, which he says has already started, will encourage bar owners to supervise them better and refill them in time.
Ndangamirwa noted that many people have of late responded positively towards the use of the machines, which has raised the condom supply, on average, by 10,000 condoms monthly.
Eddie Kayitare, the Manager of Club Next, a popular nightclub in Kigali, observed that PSI needed to increase the number of machines, noting that though they may seem to be in many locations, most of the popular nightspots, including his, do not have them.