Aim There are many scenarios where high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) detection in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) specimens is important. However, there is no Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved and clinically validated technique for detecting high-risk HPV in FFPE tissues. In this study, we evaluated two commercially available HPV assays which are FDA-approved for use on cytology specimens, the Aptima HPV assay and the Beckton Dickinson (BD) Onclarity assay, to detect high-risk HPV in FFPE tissues of cervical high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (HSIL) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Methods A total of 189 cases (46 SCC, 107 HSIL and 36 benign/normal) were tested for high-risk HPV with the Aptima HPV assay and a subset of cases (n=97) with the BD Onclarity assay. Results The sensitivities of the Aptima and BD Onclarity HPV assays were 99.4% (95% CI 96.46% to 99.98%) and 75.9% (95% CI 65.27% to 84.62%), respectively; the specificity and positive predictive value (PPV) of the two assays were 100%. Negative predictive values of the Aptima and BD Onclarity HPV assays were 97.3% (95% CI 83.61% to 99.61%) and 67.7% (95% CI 58.91% to 75.47%), respectively. The kappa value (0.96) for comparison of the distribution of high-risk HPV types between the two assays was high. HPV 16 was the most common high-risk HPV type for HSIL and SCC cases. However, SCC cases had higher percentages of HPV 16 and HPV 18/45 and lower percentages of other high-risk HPV types compared with HSIL cases. Conclusion Both assays are reliable methods for high-risk HPV detection and genotype determination in FFPE specimens, with high PPV and specificity. The Aptima HPV assay has the advantage of higher sensitivity. As far as we are aware, this is the first study comparing the Aptima HPV assay and the BD Onclarity assay in FFPE tissues. Our study results should be tested and confirmed in larger cohorts.