Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) comprise more than 100 genotypes. The mucosal types can be divided into high-risk and low-risk (LR) types depending on the associated disease risk. HPV infection is mainly diagnosed by molecular methods, since reliable serological tools are not available and culture of the virus is not possible. Accurate molecular diagnostic techniques that can be used to inform patient management and follow-up after treatment are now available for detection and identification of HPV. The diagnosis of HPV infections in patients at risk of disease in a clinical setting requires a different approach from that used for epidemiological studies, vaccination trials and natural history studies. This review describes the different molecular methods available for HPV detection and genotyping and their possible clinical utility.