Thirty years ago the now Nobel Prize winner Harald Zur Hausen first described high-risk human papillomavirus (hrHPV) type 16 in cervical cancer specimens (Fig. 1). Since then, hrHPV infection has been established as a prerequisite for the development of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer prevention programmes in many developed countries already include primary prevention through immunisation against hrHPV types 16 and 18 before hrHPV exposure, combined with secondary prevention via cytology-based screening, often augmented by testing for hrHPV infection. The benefit of acquired knowledge and new technologies must now be extended to developing countries, where 85% of deaths attributable to cervical cancer occur.