Terrence Higgins Trust uses cookies to improve your experience of our websites. For more information or to change the use of cookies, please click here.

Accept and Close

How common is HIV?

A London bus

Anyone can get HIV, but people from some groups or parts of the world are more likely to be affected. Find out more about HIV in the UK.

How common is HIV in the UK?

Around 101,200 people were living with HIV in the UK at the end of 2015.

Of these 101,200, over 13,156 (one in seven) don’t know they have HIV because they have never had an HIV test or they got HIV since their last test.

Recent years have seen around 6,000 people test positive for HIV each year - more than half are gay or bisexual men.

Around 47,000 gay or bisexual men and around 49,500 heterosexuals were estimated to be living with HIV in the UK by the end of 2015.

In the heterosexual population of those living with HIV, 58% are from black African communities.

London has the largest numbers of people living with HIV but numbers are growing in every part of the UK. In the last 10 years, the biggest increases in people living with diagnosed HIV have been in Wales, the Midlands and East of England and the North of England.

Which groups are most affected by HIV?

  • HIV is largely linked to sexual behaviour: high numbers of sexual partners and anal sex without a condom carry a higher risk than unprotected vaginal sex (which is one of the reasons why gay and bisexual men have high rates of HIV).
  • People who have moved here from parts of the world where HIV is much more common are another affected group.
  • HIV infection is also linked to injecting drug use - drug users who share injecting equipment are at a greater risk (which is the reason for high rates of infection in some countries).

Africans and HIV in the UK

Black Africans make up 1.8% of the UK population but 47% of all heterosexual men living with HIV, and 65% of all heterosexual women. Within the African population living with HIV in the UK, around one in nine black African men and one in ten black African women do not know they have it.

Gay and bisexual men and HIV in the UK

Gay and bisexual men in the UK also have high rates of HIV infection.

Nationally, around one in 17 is estimated to be living with HIV. In London as many as one in seven are living with the virus. Rates are even higher among men using the gay scenes of large cities.

In 2015 over 3,320 gay and bisexual men tested HIV positive, a slight drop from the highest ever figure recorded of 3,360 in 2014.

What about HIV from blood transfusions and sharing needles?

Since screening of the nation’s blood supply began in 1985, HIV infections from transfusions or other blood products have virtually stopped.

No-one has been infected from a blood transfusion in over 10 years. As a result, haemophiliacs no longer have high levels of HIV infection.

In some parts of the world high HIV rates are found in those who inject drugs and share injecting equipment. Because of needle exchange programmes that give out clean equipment, levels of HIV among people who inject drugs in the UK remain low.

Thanks to antenatal screening programmes, most pregnant women find out about their HIV status and receive HIV medication, so hardly any babies are now born with HIV in this country.

You'll find more information here:

How HIV is passed on ››



Empty Star Empty Star Empty Star Empty Star Empty Star (No votes cast) Please log in or register to vote. What's this?


Please log in or register to add this article to My favourites. What's this? Adding an article to My favourites will allow you to easily come back to it later or print it.

Your comments

You will need to be logged in before you can leave a comment.

Please log in using the form on the top right of the page or register.

The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 1/11/2018 by T. Kelaart

Date due for the next review: 1/11/2015

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)

Roger Pebody, HIV Transmission Risk During Anal Sex 18 Times Higher Than During Vaginal Sex, NAM, (June 28 2010)

Townsend CL et al, Low rates of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV following effective pregnancy intervention in the UK and Ireland 2000-2006. AIDS 2008; 22(8): 973-981 (2008)

NAT, People with HIV in the UK

Dodds JP et al., A tale of three cities: persisting high HIV prevalence, risk behaviour and undiagnosed infection in community samples of men who have sex with men. Sex Transm Infect (online edition), 2007.

Can't pass it on

People on effective treatment can't pass on HIV

If everyone knew this, we could bring an end to stigma and stop HIV transmissions.

PEP stopwatch

Taken a risk?

If you're worried about the sex you've had, take our risk assessment now.