Certain high-risk types of human papillomaviruses (HPVs), which are sexually transmitted persistent, and currently epidemic in the United States, are important etiologic agents in cervical cancer, constituting an acute health threat to women. Consequently, adherence to recommended Papanicolaou (Pap) screening and colposcopy regimens is crucial for early diagnosis and treatment which enhance survival dramatically. This article reviews research and theory on major psychosocial factors relevant to the transmission, onset, and course of this infection. The review focuses on cognitive-affective variables and processes (e.g. monitoring-blunting, anxiety, depression) that underlie--and potentially undermine--adherence to relevant health-protective behaviors. Identification of these processes should facilitate interventions to help women, particularly from low-income, inner city populations who are at highest risk, to adhere to essential follow-up regimens.