Page last updated at 11:49 GMT, Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Indian city of Mumbai hit by condom thefts

By Prachi Pinglay
BBC News, Mumbai

Condom box
Activists fear the thefts could adversely affect sexual health

Petty criminals who break into condom vending machines are causing concern among Aids and HIV-prevention activists in the Indian city of Mumbai.

Over 3,000 condom vending machines have been installed in the city as a part of an HIV Aids prevention programme.

However, more than 500 of the machines have been damaged by petty criminals who break into them for fun, for small change or for free condoms.

During the Hindu Diwali festival some were even damaged by fire crackers.

Rajesh Nainakwal from the Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trusts (HLFPPT) - which provides the vending machines in conjunction with non governmental organisations - said there could be several reasons for these thefts.


"These machines are installed in areas where high risk people like truck drivers are likely to visit. Often these places also have drug addicts or petty thieves.

"A machine never contains more than 100 rupees ($2) but they may break it open to sell the parts and buy drugs.

"Some may want condoms for free. Some may be against the idea of installing such machines. It still carries a stigma."

The damage to these machines is more than financial.

"When a machine is damaged then you have to factor how many people would go without a condom. One of the guidelines is that a person should be able to procure one within 15 minutes. It is not easy to get people to use to condoms and take them from these machines."

The Indian state of Maharashtra - of which Mumbai (Bombay) is capital - has one of the highest numbers of HIV infected people.

Activists have now employed a security guard to prevent thefts from happening in future.

More than 100 formal complaints have been made at various police stations about the destruction of these machines.

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