Best case scenario, the immune system eliminates the HPV without ever causing symptoms or further complications. Unfortunately, there is no way to know if/when this happens.
While the Pap smear is highly effective at detecting cervical cancer, it merely detects abnormal cervical cell changes, without ever definitively attributing these cellular changes to any particular virus or infection.
What I mean is that a young woman could be diagnosed with cervical dysplasia (the development of abnormal cell changes on the cervix) without a diagnosis of HPV. A Pap smear doesn’t test for, or reveal the presence of, HPV. So even with an abnormal Pap smear, you may still never know if it was caused by HPV infection.
Interesting, well-researched article!