Human papillomavirus (HPV) is an etiologic agent of cervical cancer and is the most common sexually transmitted disease in women. PCR amplification of HPV genomes is the most sensitive method for the detection of cervicovaginal HPV. We have compared the two most commonly used PCR primer sets, MY09/MY11 (MY-PCR) and GP5+/GP6+ (GP+-PCR), for the detection of HPV DNA in cervicovaginal lavage samples from 208 women. Oligonucleotide probes for 39 different HPV types were used. Both primer sets amplified a wide spectrum of HPV genotypes and detected similar overall prevalences of 45% (94 of 208) and 43% (89 of 208), respectively. The MY-PCR system detected 27 of 30 (90%) samples with multiple HPV types, whereas the GP+-PCR system detected 14 of 30 (47%) samples with multiple HPV types. Differences in the detection of HPV types 35, 53, and 61 were noted between the two primer systems. Serial dilution of plasmid templates indicated a 3-log decrease in the amplification of HPV type 35 by MY-PCR and HPV types 53 and 61 by GP+-PCR. These results indicate that although the MY-PCR and GP+-PCR identified nearly equivalent prevalences of HPV in a set of clinical samples, differences in the detection of specific types and infections with multiple types were found. Differences in the sensitivities and characteristics of the PCR systems for the detection of HPV within clinical samples should be considered when comparing data between studies and/or in designing new studies or clinical trials.