BACKGROUND Infection with human papilloma virus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer, but the local risk factors have not been sufficiently assessed. AIM The study is aimed at determining the prevalence and to evaluate the local risk factors of HPV infection in cervical smears at the Imo State University Teaching Hospital, Orlu, Nigeria. SUBJECTS AND METHODS The participants involved 445 randomly selected sexually active women attending the antenatal, postnatal, gynecology and family planning clinics in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of the university between April 2004 and May 2012. A questionnaire assessing various socio-demographic characteristics of the participants was administered. The pap smears of the participants were examined microscopically for evidence of HPV infection. The SPSS version 17.0 (Chicago, Illinois, USA) was used to compute and analyze the results. The results were presented in tables as simple percentages. Tests of significance using the Chi-square and fisher exact tests were applied where appropriate. RESULTS The prevalence rate of HPV was 10.3%. The peak age-specific prevalence of 11.7% occurred in the 15-19 years age group. There were significant associations between the occurrence of HPV and multiple sexual partners, coital frequency, multiparity, contraceptive use, marital status, low socio-economic status, abnormal vaginal discharge, irregular menstruation, post-coital and post-menopausal bleeding, (P < 0.05). CONCLUSION All sexually active women including teenagers should be screened for cervical HPV infection in an organized systematic program equipped with a good call and recall system. There is, therefore, a need to move emphasis from the current practice of opportunistic screening to a systematic screening of the whole population at risk despite cost implications.