How often do condoms break or slip off in use?
Men attending 3 sexually transmissible disease clinics and a university health service in Sydney were given a questionnaire asking how many condoms they had used in the past year and how many broke during application or use or slipped off. Respondents were 544 men aged 18 to 54 years. Of these, 402 men reported using 13,691 condoms for vaginal or anal intercourse; 7.3% reportedly broke during application or use and 4.4% slipped off. Men having sex with men reported slightly higher slippage rates than those having sex with women. Breakage and slippage were unevenly distributed among the sample: a few men experienced very high failure rates. A volunteer subsample reported 3 months later on condoms supplied to them: 36 men used 529 condoms, of which 2.8% broke during application or use and 3.4% slipped off. Many of these failures pose no risk to the user, especially those occurring during application, as long as they are noticed at the time, but failure may discourage future use. Research is needed to identify user behaviours related to breakage.