The role of high-risk human papillomavirus (hrHPV) testing in primary cervical screening has not been established. We generated a randomised evaluation design ultimately to clarify whether primary hrHPV testing implemented into routine screening can bring increase in the programme effectiveness. The aim of the present report on first-year results was to assess the cross-sectional relative validity parameters for routine hrHPV screening, in comparison with conventional screening. An equal number of women invited to routine screening was randomly allocated to primary hrHPV screening (n=7060) and to cytological screening (n=7089). In the hrHPV screening arm, after a single positive hrHPV test result, the need of colposcopy referral was determined by a cytological triage test. Compared with the conventional arm, more colposcopy referrals were made in the hrHPV screening arm (relative risk 1.51, confidence interval 95% 1.03-2.22). Specificity of the primary screening with sole hrHPV test (91.5-92.1%) was much lower than that with the cytology triage (98.7-99.3%), which was not quite as specific as screening with conventional cytology (99.2-99.6%). Compared with conventional cytology, primary screening with hrHPV test results in increased cross-sectional relative sensitivity at the level of all positive lesions at the cost of substantial loss in specificity. With cytology triage, the specificity improves to the level of conventional cytology.