Tufts’ sex health vending machine opened on Oct. Located downstairs in the Campus Center, the machine is stocked with a $15 Plan B plus free condoms, lubricants, and dental kits.
The project was spearheaded by Tufts’ Center for Awareness, Resources and Education and Tufts National Center for Abortion Rights Action to reduce sexual stigma and promote safe sexual practices among students by making these products more accessible.
Sex Health Rep Paige Duff said, “The conceptualization of the machine is, ‘How do we make access easier for students?’ “If we could… [students] To use protection during sex, we want to do everything we can to make it easier. The vending machine seemed like an easy and fun way to do that.”
CARE initially offered a free condom machine as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, where students’ access to sexual health products is difficult. While students used to be able to enter Healthcare whenever they want and get free condoms, the pandemic has forced Healthcare to work by appointment only, making this take-and-go system impossible. Due to the pandemic, CARE also had to close the “Jumbo Condoms Circus” program, where CARE will distribute free condoms to the dormitories of students who order.
“Suddenly we didn’t have public spaces on our campus. [where] Anyone can access resources. “Everything in one place with a vending machine out there,” said CARE director Alexandra Donovan. “Everything you could want is there.”
Originally, the vending machine would only sell condoms, dental dams, and oil. However, the following Defense from NARALadded Healthcare Plan B. In pharmacies, Plan B costs about $50; vending machine sells Plan B for just $15. Duff hopes that including Plan B will allow people to access the resources they need without judgment.
“I honestly think there’s a stigma surrounding buying any sexual health product, but people in particular are really embarrassed about buying Plan B,” Duff said. “There are people [who] Falsely thinking that Plan B is the same thing as the abortion pill. …We don’t want someone’s fear of judgment to become a barrier between them and the sexual resources they need.”
NARAL’s co-leader Paige Shayne revealed that NARAL has been advocating the creation of a Plan B vending machine since spring 2021. The current vending machine is a hybrid between NARAL’s vision and CARE’s request for a free condom machine.
“At the basic level, [the vending machine] It will make taking contraceptives a lot easier for students,” said Shayne. [Plan B] It’s good in an vending machine where there are only things women don’t need because it promotes the idea that sexual health isn’t just for women. … Men too should understand what it means to take the pill.”
To ensure students’ privacy, the machine’s products are placed in unlabeled, colored envelopes, each containing an information sheet about the product and possible side effects. According to Donovan, the CARE team regularly stocks these products.
“Overall, consumption of all sex health supplies this year was unprecedented compared to the previous eight years,” Donovan said, referring to both the contents of the sex-health machine and the large bags of condoms CARE supplies to RAs. given to students in dormitories.
“I’m always at the Campus Center and I see students go up. [to the vending machine] and buying some really cool stuff,” Shayne said. “I think the students are very excited about it.”
Overall, Donovan hopes the vending machine sets a precedent for the future. There is talk of bringing the machine to other Tufts campuses and more schools across the country.
“It’s still a bit of a novelty. From other schools ‘How did you set up?’ I get a lot of calls about. and ‘What sort of thing?'” Donovan said.
Donovan also touched on potential barriers to using the sexual health vending machine.
“We know it can be a hindrance for someone to come and use the machine because of what’s inside. [because] It’s clear you’re using the machine, but at the same time we just want it to be the norm,” Donovan said. “We celebrate people who get the supplies they need… so this can be a normal conversation and asking for condoms to be used during sexual activity is just how it’s done.”
Going forward, Donovan encourages students to reach out to the CARE team with suggestions for improving the machine.
“If there’s anything else you want, please let us know,” Donovan said. “We want to make sure people have what they need and if there are any concerns about the machine that we haven’t thought of. We’re open to considering that.”