Determinants of human papillomavirus (HPV)-16 serological conversion and persistence were assessed in a population-based cohort of 10 049 women in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Serologic responses to HPV-16 were measured in 7986 women by VLP-based enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay at both study enrollment (1993/94) and at 5-7 years of follow-up. Seropositive women were defined as >/=5 standard deviations above the mean optical density obtained for studied virgins at enrollment (n=573). Seroconnversion (n=409), persistence (n=675), and clearance (n=541) were defined based on enrollment and follow-up serology measurements. Age-specific distributions revealed that HPV-16 seroconversion was highest among 18- to 24-year-old women, steadily declining with age; HPV-16 seropersistence was lowest in women 65+ years. In age-adjusted multivariate logistic regression models, a 10-fold risk increase for HPV-16 seroconversion was associated with HPV-16 DNA detection at enrollment and follow-up; two-fold risk of seroconversion to HPV-16 was associated with increased numbers of lifetime and recent sexual partners and smoking status. Determinants of HPV-16 seropersistence included a 1.5-fold risk increase associated with having one sexual partner during follow-up, former oral contraceptive use, and a 3-fold risk increase associated with HPV-16 DNA detection at both enrollment and follow-up. Higher HPV-16 viral load at enrollment was associated with seroconversion, and higher antibody titres at enrollment were associated with seropersistence.