A nationwide effort to introduce the female condom (FC) into public health services was undertaken in Brazil in 1998-99. To this end, the Ministry of Health sponsored a national research group of public health professionals, aided by local field workers and supervisors, to conduct a preparatory study at 20 sites in six cities. Clinic health workers were trained to conduct the study. Following an educational session, 2382 women volunteered to use the FC and to report their experiences at follow-up. Among those seen at 15 days, 1782 had used the FC at least once; among those seen at the 90-day follow-up, 1453 women had used it at least once, while 1296 of them liked it and wished to continue its use. Among these 1296 women, barrier use at last intercourse (either with a male or a female condom) was more than double at 90 days what it had been at baseline: 70% compared with 33%. Clinics providing active health-education activities achieved higher rates of follow-up and of FC acceptability. These findings suggest that in Brazil, the introduction of the FC at public health centres could lead to high initial adoption rates and that continued use would be effective in encouraging safer sex. The level of health education and type of clinic are likely to influence the effectiveness of a future programme.