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HIV in the UK

UK

HIV is one of the fastest-growing serious health conditions in the UK. Which groups have been affected most and how are things changing?

HIV in the UK — 2014 statistics

  • An estimated 103,700 people are living with HIV in the UK.
  • Of these, 17% are undiagnosed and do not know about their HIV infection.
  • In 2014, 613 people with HIV died.
  • There were 6,151 new HIV diagnoses in 2014.
  • Two-fifths (40%) of people diagnosed with HIV in 2014 were diagnosed late, after they should have already started treatment.
  • 85,489 people accessed HIV care services, 41% of whom live in London.
  • Of new HIV diagnoses in 2014, 55% were among men who have sex with men (MSM).
  • Of those accessing HIV care, just less than half (48%) are aged 45 years or older, and 16% are 55 or older.
  • There has been a 2% decrease in the proportion of eligible people getting tested for HIV infection.

All data is taken from Public Health England.

  1. Overview
  2. History
  3. Groups
  4. Location
  5. Diagnosis
  6. Stats

Overview

There are now more people living with HIV in the UK than ever before. In 2014, an estimated 103,700 people in the UK were living with HIV, 17% of whom were unaware of their infection.

A total of 6,151 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in 2014. The proportion of new infection from heterosexual contact which were UK-acquired has increased from 36% to 59% (2005-2014). This proportion for MSM (men who have sex with men) has seen a slight decrease over the same time period.

Two-fifths (40%) of people diagnosed with HIV in 2014 were diagnosed late, after they should have begun treatment. Late diagnosis is most common in certain groups, heterosexuals in particular:

  • heterosexual men (61%)
  • black African (58%)
  • heterosexual women (52%)
  • black Caribbean (39%)
  • older people aged 55 and over (56%)

The number of new HIV diagnoses among MSM continues to surpass the number among heterosexuals in 2014 (3,360 MSM and 2,490 heterosexuals).

Heterosexual infections accounted for 40% of new diagnoses in 2014. Out of all newly diagnosed heterosexual people, 37% were aged 45 years or above in 2014.

Out of all people accessing HIV care in 2014, 48% were aged 45 or over.

In 2014, 20% of all new HIV diagnoses were among people born in Africa, less than half of those recorded in 2005 (44%).

The proportion of new diagnoses reported in people born in the UK has increased from 31% to 42% over the same period.

History

Early government media campaigns were successful in raising public awareness about HIV. The measures initially taken by UK governments in the 1980s, including condom and safer sex education, needle exchanges and harm reduction programmes - alongside strong efforts by the UK’s gay communities - made sure that we have far lower prevalence rates of HIV than some of our European neighbours.

France, Spain and Italy all have individually almost twice the number of people living with HIV than the UK.

For people living with HIV in the UK, the development (and availability on the National Health Service) of more effective anti-HIV drugs in the mid-1990s meant that they could stay healthier for longer. These treatment developments have continued and now people diagnosed early enough, and taking medication as recommended, can expect to live a near-normal life span.

However, over the course of the 1990s public and political complacency over the risks of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections in the UK crept in. Partly because of this, the number of new cases of HIV being diagnosed began to rise.

Today, men who have sex with men continue to be most at risk from HIV, in addition to black African heterosexual men and women.

In 2014, there were 103,700 people estimated to be living with HIV in the UK.

By the end of 2014, there had been a total of 28,690 diagnoses of AIDS in the UK, and more than 22,336 people diagnosed with HIV had died.

Groups

The two groups most affected in the UK are men who have sex with men (MSM) and black African heterosexual men and women.

Approximately 3,360 MSM (men who have sex with men) were diagnosed in 2014, 55% of the total. This was the highest number ever reported - the largest proportion of cases - and gay men are still the highest-risk group for HIV within the UK. In 2014 approximately three quarters (76%) of newly diagnosed MSM probably acquired HIV in the UK.

A similarly large proportion of people diagnosed with HIV in the UK in 2014 (40%) were infected through heterosexual sex. In 2014, 37% of newly diagnosed heterosexual people were aged 45 years or above. Approximately half of those infected heterosexually were black African.

Looking at probable country of infection, 59% of all heterosexuals diagnosed acquired HIV in the UK. However the absolute number of new diagnoses of UK-acquired infections has dropped from approximately 1,700 to 1,500 (2005-2014).

The proportion of new diagnoses among people born in Africa has decreased from 44% of total diagnoses in 2005, to 20% in 2014. The number of new diagnoses reported in this group has more than halved since 2004.

Needle exchange and harm reduction programmes have been very effective and new diagnoses of HIV infection acquired through injecting drug use (150 in 2014) have remained low.

It is also possible for the virus to be passed from mother to baby during pregnancy but improvements to antenatal HIV testing and treatments make this increasingly rare.

In the past, some people also got HIV through blood products but in the UK this is now extremely rare. Since the introduction of testing for HIV in 1985, there have been three cases of transmission of the virus to patients through blood from donors, and none since 2002.

Location

Around two fifths (41%) of all those living with diagnosed HIV in the UK live in London. This proportion used to be much higher, but people with HIV are now living across all areas of the UK and particularly in major cities and in the North West of England.

In the last 10 years, the biggest increases in people living with diagnosed HIV have been in the East of England, the West Midlands and the North East.

Diagnosis

If someone is diagnosed a long time after they have been infected with HIV, it is more likely that the virus will have already seriously damaged their immune system.

Someone is said to have been diagnosed late if the number of CD4 cells (a type of important immune system cell) in their bloodstream has dropped below a certain level (350).

Late diagnosis is one of the biggest contributing factors to illness and death for people with HIV.

It is very important that HIV is diagnosed early, so people can start treatment, look after their own health and take steps to ensure they don’t pass the virus on.

In 2014, an estimated 40% of adults (1,975) diagnosed with HIV were diagnosed with CD4 counts below 350, indicating that their immune systems may have already been damaged by the virus.

New treatment guidelines recommend that people with HIV should start taking medication as soon as possible after diagnosis. This is a change in old guidelines that recommended treatment to start when an individuals CD4 count was below 350.

Stats

Public Health England annually produce HIV and STI statistics from around the UK. We edit these into the regional and national bulletins of HIV or STI statistics which you can download here.


STI statistics

2014 HIV statistics

 

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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 14/3/2016 by Anna Peters

Date due for the next review: 30/1/2017

Content Author: D. Laycock

Current Owner: Policy

More information:

Public Health England, HIV in the United Kingdom: 2015 Report, London: Health Protection Services, Colindale. (November 2015)

Public Health England, HIV in the United Kingdom: data table, London: Health Protection Services, Colindale. (November 2015)