Human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the commonest sexually transmitted infections. Up to 80% of sexually active women are infected at some point in their lives and 10-20% develop persistent infection.1

Infection with specific strains of HPV has been associated with the development of cervical cancer,2 a preventable and treatable disease for which routine screening using a cervical cytology based method is employed to detect precancerous cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN).

Despite screening, cervical cancer is still the most common malignancy in women aged less than 35, and there has been a downward trend in coverage of screening in this population.3 4 This may partly be because the current screening by cervical cytology sampling is invasive, is time consuming, and requires a clinician.

The detection of HPV in the cervix is being piloted as a new method of cervical cancer screening and is recommended for secondary prevention.5 This is based on four randomised controlled trials and a pooled analysis of these, which showed that HPV detection is more protective against grade 3 CIN and invasive cervical cancer compared with current screening methods.6 7 8

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