Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection of the genital tract is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and a subset of genital tract HPVs are etiologically associated with cervical cancer. The prevalence of HPV infection is highest among adolescents and young adults. This study was undertaken to explore first year college students' knowledge about HPVs and to determine whether there were gender differences in this knowledge. An anonymous survey was distributed to all first year students at a private university. The results were analyzed by gender. We found that 96.2% of males and 95.4% of females had heard of genital warts, although only 4.2% of males and 11.6% of females knew that HPV caused genital warts. Although there was a greater awareness of genital warts than HPV in this population, students were uncertain about modes of transmission of both genital warts and HPVs, and unclear about the importance of HPV infection relative to other STDs. For both men and women (87% and 87.4%, respectively), health education classes were the major source of information about STDs. We conclude that health education should be reconceptualized to incorporate a better understanding of STDs, including HPV infection, by engaging adolescents and young adults in exploring the biological and social context of STDs, their public health importance, strategies for prevention, and the uncertainty of our scientific knowledge.