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Is there a test for HPV?

For women and people with a cervix, there is a test for high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV). Doing an HPV test as well as looking for cervical cell changes (abnormal cells) helps show who is at higher risk of developing cervical cancer. It means those who need it will have further tests more quickly, while reassuring those who have low risk of cervical cancer.

What happens during HPV testing?

Your experience during an HPV test will be the same as your current cervical screening (smear test) appointment. The only difference is that the sample of cells taken from your cervix is tested for HPV, instead of looking for cell changes.

There are 3 reasons why you may have an HPV test:

Types of HPV testing

HPV primary screening

HPV primary screening is a type of test done on the sample of cells taken at your cervical screening appointment. It is sometimes called HPV primary testing.

It means your cells will be tested for high-risk HPV first, instead of for any changes to your cells. Your appointment and how the test is done will stay exactly the same.

HPV primary screening was introduced in Wales in September 2018. It will be introduced in:

  • England in late 2019
  • Scotland in 2020
  • Northern Ireland in 2020 onwards (to be confirmed).

It is a more accurate way of identifying who may be more at risk of developing cervical cell changes or cervical cancer.

Once HPV primary screening starts, HPV triage (see below) will no longer be used.

Read more about HPV primary screening >  

HPV triage

In England and Northern Ireland, HPV testing is used if cervical screening shows low-grade cell changes (also called low-grade dyskaryosis). This is usually called HPV triage:

  • If high-risk HPV is found (HPV positive), you will be referred to colposcopy where a specialist takes a closer look at your cervix. If you feel anxious or overwhelmed by this result, you can call our Helpline on 0808 802 8000.
  • If high-risk HPV is not found (HPV negative), you will go back to routine screening every 3 or 5 years, depending on your age.

Once HPV primary screening begins (see above), HPV triage will no longer be used.

Test of cure

In the UK, HPV testing is also used to show treatment for cell changes has been successful. This is called test of cure. It is done at the first appointment after treatment, which is usually after six months:

  • If there is no high-risk HPV or low-grade cell changes, you can return to regular screening every 3 years, whatever your age.  
  • If high-risk HPV or high-grade cell changes are found, you will be referred to colposcopy again. If you are worried or upset about your result, remember we are here to support you. Call us on 0808 802 8000 or join our online forum to speak with people who have been through similar experiences.

Read more about test of cure >

Does HPV testing happen where I live?

At least one type of HPV test is used everywhere in the UK. Not all HPV tests are currently available in every part of the UK.



Type of HPV test




Northern Ireland

HPV primary screening

From 2019

From 2020


From 2020 (to be confirmed)

HPV triage





Test of cure





HPV testing for men

There is currently no HPV test for men, as the result would not help the management or treatment of any related condition.

More information about HPV testing

 HPV and the different tests for it can be complicated to understand, but if you want to talk things through you can call our Helpline on 0808 802 8000. Or you may want to use our Ask the Expert service, where medical professionals will answer your questions.


How we research and write our information >


If you have questions or concerns about HPV testing, get a confidential response from a medical professional.

Ask the Expert

Cervical screening >

Find out what cervical screening is for, who is invited and what to expect at the appointment.

Date last updated: 
17 Sep 2019
Date due for review: 
17 Aug 2020

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