Universal deployment of organized or opportunistic screening with Pap cytology in high and middle income countries has been the primary reason for the substantial reductions in cervical cancer morbidity and mortality during the last 50 years. However, in many low income countries Pap cytology screening is yet to be effectively implemented or has failed to reduce cervical cancer rates to an appreciable extent. Cervical cancer thus remains a critical public health problem that is second only to breast cancer in overall disease burden for women throughout the world. The fact that infection with certain human papillomavirus (HPV) types is now recognized as a necessary cause of this disease has led to new research fronts on the prevention of cervical cancer. Recent research on the safety and efficacy of candidate prophylactic vaccines against HPV have shown very promising results with nearly 100% efficacy in preventing the development of persistent infections and cervical precancerous lesions. Ongoing clinical studies are expected to provide further evidence of efficacy and will form the basis for licensing of candidate vaccines by the major pharmaceutical companies within 3-6 years. Although the future seems bright on the HPV vaccine front policy makers are strongly cautioned to avoid scaling back cervical cancer screening. It will take many years before we can rationally develop cervical cancer screening strategies that will be cost-effective for the proper surveillance of women protected by HPV vaccination.