human papillomavirus or hpv infection is related to cervical, anal as well as penile cancers. given the incidence of some of these diseases and their consequences, hpv infection is a subject of current interest that must be approached from diverse perspectives. this study explored students` knowledge at the university of costa rica about the subject of hpv infection during the second semester of academic year 2006. a custom-made interview was designed using key questions on the subject and a knowledge index about hpv was created. 439 students - 227 men (51,7%) and 212 (48,3%) women- were interviewed, most of them between the ages of 17 to 25 years (80%), and belonging to the social sciences(34,4%), health sciences(29,8%), or computing and engineering sciences(19,8%). all of the women had heard about the virus, while 15 men (17-20 years) had not; the means of transmission and the relationship with cancer were the main differences in the percentage of answers between men and women; mass media and prevention campaigns were the main sources of knowledge about the virus. the index designed showed that 32% of the students had poor knowledge, 37% moderate amounts of knowledge and 31% high level. a greater number of students in the health sciences tended to have high levels of knowledge with respect to this subject. students in the basic sciences had a tendency towards the lower level, while the rest of study areas tended to increase their percentage between low and moderate, and less than 37% were in the high levels. this study suggests that health personnel must assume the responsibility of leading the preventive processes in the different settings.