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How common is HIV?

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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 103,700 people were living with HIV in the UK at the end of 2014.

Of these 103,700, over 17,629 (one in six) 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 and bisexual men.

Around 44,980 gay and bisexual men and around 54,000 heterosexuals were estimated to be living with HIV in the UK by the end of 2014.

In the heterosexual population of those living with HIV, 55% are from black African communities but 45% are not, with over 24,000 from other communities.

The fastest growing group of people living with HIV are those aged 55 and over, with one in six people now accessing care for the condition.

London has the largest numbers of people living with HIV but numbers are growing in every part of the UK.

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 29% of all people living with HIV. Within the African population living with HIV in the UK, around one in six black African men and one in eight black African women do not know they have it.

However, new diagnoses are falling among this group due to fewer diagnoses among people born in sub-Saharan Africa.

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

In 2014 over 3,360 gay and bisexual men tested HIV positive, the highest figure ever reported.

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 ››



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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 19/11/2015 by T. Kelaart

Date due for the next review: 19/11/2018

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.

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The easiest and most effective precaution to take against most STIs is using a condom.