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The number of people newly diagnosed with HIV in the UK who contracted the virus through heterosexual sex has started to fall in recent years since the peak year of 2005.

However, this fall is mostly due to fewer diagnoses among people infected heterosexually abroad.

Since 1999 heterosexual sex had overtaken sex between men as the most common route of transmission among new HIV cases overall. However in 2011 new diagnoses acquired through sex between men overtook heterosexual transmissions again. 

In 2015, heterosexual transmission accounted for 39% of those newly diagnosed in the UK. It is now thought that the majority of people diagnosed in 2015 through heterosexual sex were actually exposed to the virus in the UK (57%).


In 2015, 57% of all new heterosexual HIV diagnoses were most likely acquired in the UK.

Those infected with HIV through heterosexual sex account for:

  • 39% of new HIV diagnoses in 2015 - 2,360 infections in total.
  • 47% of the total number of people needing HIV care, making a total of 41,945 people. 

An estimated 49,500 heterosexuals were living with HIV in the UK in 2015. In this group:

  • 1 in 7 (14%) are undiagnosed. Men are more likely to be undiagnosed than women (16% compared with 13%). Most likely, this is in part because some women with HIV are diagnosed by routine testing during pregnancy.
  • Of all heterosexual men living with HIV in the UK, 47% are black African. A higher proportion (65%) of heterosexual women living with HIV in the UK are black African.
  • In 2015, 28% of newly diagnosed heterosexual men and 18% of newly diagnosed heterosexual women were aged 50 or older.
  • In 2015, 49% of heterosexual women and 55% of heterosexual men were diagnosed late (CD4 count less than 350).



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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 2/12/2016 by Kyle Christie

Date due for the next review: 2/12/2017

Content Author: D. Laycock

Current Owner: Policy

More information:

Public Health England, HIV in the United Kingdom: 2016 Report, London: Health Protection Services, Colindale. (December 2016)

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