Last Wednesday Planned Parenthood Generation Action (PPGA) at UCR installed UCR’s first operational safe-sex vending machine at the Student Recreation Center (SRC). It is located at the SRC North building next to the racquetball courts and holds a number of safe-sex items including pregnancy tests, lubricants, condoms, tampons, pads, pain and allergy relief, Monistat and other sexual health products.
In an interview with the Highlander, Elizabeth Kavianian, the co-president of PPGA at UCR and a third-year public policy major stated that PPGA was able to successfully provide a low-priced $20 emergency contraceptive pill called EContra 1-Step in the vending machine. The official name of the installation of these vending machines is called the “Wellness Express Convenient Contraceptive and More.”
One step in implementing these safe-sex vending machines began fall quarter when PPGA released surveys to get opinions from UCR students on the vending machines and determine whether they wanted them on campus. Kavianian said that the installation of more safe-sex vending machines throughout UCR would be determined by the success of this first vending machine.
According to their website, PPGA is a national community of largely young activists who coordinate events in their communities and campuses to spread awareness about reproductive health and rights. Through national campaigns, leadership opportunities and conferences, PPGA advocates for reproductive freedom and strives to educate the youth on sexual health.
The reason PPGA wanted to install these vending machines was to give students the ability to purchase safe-sex items during the day and night without the trouble of store hours or transportation. They also hoped that establishing these vending machines would decrease the stigma, anxiety and embarrassment that students face while buying them at stores or clinics. The PPGA view these machines as a way to help reduce unwanted pregnancies and promote safe-sex.
Kavianian provided an example of how Scotty’s in the HUB has limited store hours and the act of having to ask the cashier to grab sexual items can be an embarrassment for most students. Kavianian stated, “we’re trying to make sure people are comfortable and they’re not facing any of that stress.”
She said that PPGA chose to put the first safe-sex vending machine at the SRC mainly because it was close to the dormitories and on-campus housing apartments. She stated, “it’s really accessible, but it’s also somewhat secluded and private.” According to Kavianian, this placement of the machine in a discreet area was meant to lessen the embarrassment or stress that would be present for students if it was in a more open area. She further commented that “we would love to get them in the libraries.”
Kavianian identified the implementation as a collaborative process; emphasizing the collective effort between the PPGA, The Well, Student Health Services (SHS) and the SRC. She said The Well aided in the marketing, planning and educational components of the installation. She stated that SHS supplied the $20 EContra 1-step for the machine and Scotty’s will order the products for PPGA to put in the machine. She added that the SRC staff will stock the vending machine with safe-sex products.
Monthly expense reports of the safe-sex products bought from the vending machine will allow PPGA to track the items and stock them accordingly. She said that the vending machines will be self-sustaining. An Instagram account for the Wellness Express Convenient Contraceptive and More (@ucrwellnessexpress) has been made. This account will provide educational facts on sexual health, give machine updates and advertise SRC events. Regarding student awareness of the safe-sex vending machine, Kavianian stated that “we want everyone to know about it.”