Vending machines are increasingly being deployed to distribute harm reduction supplies in North America. As Filter has reported, they’re being used to dispense hydromorphone in a Canadian safe supply project, and naloxone and sterile syringes in New York City, among other examples. One of their notable benefits is the level of anonymity they provide.
Now, a larger-scale effort expects to set up around 100 such machines across Canada in the next three years. Despite their being known colloquially as “vending machines,” using them is free. They’ll offer critical equipment like HIV testing kits, condoms, naloxone and syringes, as well as information—via a large touch-screen face.
The Our Healthbox initiative is led by researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital, a site of Unity Health Toronto. Sean Rourke, a scientist at the hospital’s MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions, is one of the experts involved.
Last year, Rourke and a team of colleagues launched the I’m Ready program, enabling people to download an app to order free, self-administered HIV test kits—which he was also involved in creating, and which are Health Canada-approved—to their homes or another location.
If a person using the kit tests positive, they should go to a doctor for confirmation and to discuss treatment options, Rourke said, while those who test negative but may be at risk of contracting HIV should go to a doctor as well, to discuss preventative measures such as PrEP.