The conventional direct referral to colposcopy of persistent borderline or mildly dyskaryotic (BMD) smears in cervical cancer screening leads to considerable unnecessary referrals and associated anxiety and costs. This may be improved by including testing for oncogenic human papillomavirus (HPV) in the triage. We assessed costs and side effects (referrals, treatments and time in follow-up) for 3 possible HPV triage strategies (immediate HPV testing, a 6-month delay in HPV testing, a 2-stage combination of both) and compared them with the conventional strategy. The assessments are based on recent Dutch data from various national databases and trials. We estimated that the referral rate could be reduced by 49, 58 and 58% with immediate, delayed and 2-stage HPV testing, respectively. As a consequence, the average length of follow-up, as well as average costs, also decrease. Therefore, we advocate including HPV testing before referring to colposcopy. Among the 3 HPV strategies, analysis of additional aspects favors implementation of immediate HPV testing. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.