HIV & AIDS in Ireland and the UK


According to the 2010 UNAIDS Global Report, the HIV pandemic was thought to have peaked worldwide around 1999. It is argued that the global incidence of HIV has since declined. This, however, is not the case in Ireland. Since 1999, the figures have more than doubled with the majority of cases revealing that the route of transmission was through homosexual and/or heterosexual intercourse.

In the initial stages of the pandemic, society and the media seemed to focus very negatively on those most affected by HIV – homosexual men and injecting drug users, as sex, in particular gay sex, and drug use were social taboos. With these risk groups identified, HIV was then labelled as a clinical issue, rather than a social issue. Although the numbers of HIV infections relative to the population are very small, worryingly, they still continue to rise and are increasingly among heterosexual partners.

  • In June 2010, the total number of HIV infections in Ireland reached 5,805 (approximately 0.14% of the population)
  • There were 168 new diagnoses reported in 2010
  • Of these 168, 127 cases stated the route of transmission: 44.9% (57) were homosexual men; 40.2% (51) were through heterosexual intercourse; and 11.8% (15) were Injecting Drug Users (IDUs)
  • Men accounted for 73.2% of new cases.
  • Almost two thirds of the cases were aged between 20 and 40 years old.
  • Of the cases where geographic origin was reported: 50.4% were Irish; 20.4% were from sub-Saharan Africa; and 15% were from central and eastern Europe.
  • There were 18 newly reported cases of AIDS in 2010
  • In June 2010, the total number of AIDS cases reached 1,066 (approximately 0.025% of the population)

The UK

Since the discovery of HIV in the UK in the 1980s, there has been a steady increase in people becoming infected. Again, HIV and AIDS appeared to be affecting only homosexual men and injecting drug users. However, over the past 15 years there has been a rapid increase in infection rates, which is specifically due to heterosexually acquired infections. In the UK, the number of infection transmitted through heterosexual intercourse increased from 157 in 2000 to 1100 in 2009. Despite this, there still appears to be the attitude that HIV only infects homosexual men and injecting drug users. But as the statistics indicate, it is very much present in the UK population – outside of these supposed ‘risk groups’.

  • 86,500 people in the UK were HIV positive in 2009. By June 2010, the number had reached 111,922.
  • There have been 26,262 diagnoses of AIDS in the UK in total, up to June 2010.
  • 19,457 people living with HIV have died in the UK from HIV related illnesses.
  • There has been a decline in the number of new diagnoses since 2005, but numbers are still higher now than they were before 2003.
  • The rapid increase of HIV transmission over the last 15 years has been through heterosexual sex.
  • Heterosexual sex accounted for 54% of all HIV diagnoses since 2009.
  • In 2009, almost half of new HIV diagnoses were white men and women; one third were black Africans; people of Asian origin and Caribbean origin accounted for less than 10%.