Syringe vending machines (SVMs) have been introduced in Europe and Australasia as part of the effort to increase the availability of sterile needles and syringes to injecting drug users (IDUs). This qualitative review of 14 published and grey literature studies examines whether community-based SVMs as a component of a comprehensive needle syringe programme (NSP) assist to reduce the spread of HIV and other blood-borne viruses amongst IDUs. The available evidence suggests that SVMs increase access to sterile injecting equipment, reduce needle and syringe sharing, and are likely to be cost efficient. SVMs also complement other modes of NSP delivery as they are used by IDUs who are less likely to attend staffed NSPs or pharmacies. If installed and properly maintained in a well-chosen location and with the local community well prepared, SVMs can enhance the temporal and geographical availability of sterile injecting equipment.