Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Prevalence of HIV antibody in high and low risk groups in England. Public Health Laboratory Service Working Group.

British Medical Journal 1989; 298 doi: (Published 18 February 1989) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1989;298:422


Most studies of the spread of HIV infection have centred on homosexuals and intravenous drug users. To estimate the extent of infection in different groups, including heterosexuals, the prevalence of HIV antibody was studied in 34,222 subjects tested with consent between October 1986 and December 1987 in England. These included subjects in high risk groups for HIV infection, heterosexuals with partners in the high risk groups and heterosexuals with multiple partners or with no identifiable risk factors. The prevalence was highest in homosexual or bisexual men in London (15.1%; 213/1412), being 4.0% (146/3607) outside London. The yearly incidence of infection in 632 homosexual or bisexual men without HIV antibody when retested during the study period was 3%. Among intravenous drug users the prevalence of HIV antibody was 5.7% (36/633) in London and 1.5% (39/2562) outside. Of 3272 heterosexual subjects tested, whose partner was in a risk group, eight of 515 (1.6%) in London and six of 2757 (0.2%) outside were positive for the antibody. Among 20,455 heterosexuals with a history of multiple partners or with no declared risk, only six subjects with HIV antibody were identified, two of whom had been infected abroad. Heterosexual spread of infection in England is evidently still largely confined to subjects whose partner has an identifiable risk.