The co-evolution of papillomaviruses (PV) and their mammalian hosts has produced mechanisms by which PV might avoid specific and non-specific host immune responses. Low level expression of PV proteins in infected basal epithelial cells, together with an absence of inflammation and of virus-induced cell lysis, restricts the opportunity for effective PV protein presentation to immunocytes by dendritic cells. Additionally, PV early proteins, by a range of mechanisms, may restrict the efficacy of antigen presentation by these cells. Should an immune response be induced to PV antigens, resting keratinocytes (KC) appear resistant to interferon-gamma-enhanced mechanisms of cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL)-mediated lysis, and expression of PV antigens by resting KC can tolerise PV-specific CTL. Thus, KC, in the absence of inflammation, may represent an immunologically privileged site for PV infection. Together, these mechanisms play a part in allowing persistence of PV-induced proliferative skin lesions for months to years, even in immunocompetent hosts.