Objective: To assess the impact of the worldwide HIV/AIDS epidemic on the prevalence of HIV in women in the United Kingdom (UK), particularly in the large immigrant and ethnic minority communities.
Method: Unlinked anonymous neonatal seroprevalence survey with electronic record linkage of data from child health computers (maternal age and ethnic status) and birth registration (parent's country of birth).
Results: Of a total 137456 samples collected in 1997-1998, 188 (0.14%) were anti-HIV-1 seropositive. Seroprevalence was highest in women born in East Africa (2.3%) and Central Africa (1.9%). 76.4% of seropositive newborns were delivered to mothers born in sub-Saharan Africa; a further 6.0% had fathers from sub-Saharan Africa. However, there was little evidence of HIV in women born in Southern Asia [prevalence 0.0081%; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0-0.04], and none within UK-born Asian communities. Prevalence among the UK-born Black African community was low (0.14%; 95% CI 0-0.6). Among infants with both parents known to be born in the UK, seroprevalence was 0.023% (95% CI 0.01-0.04) in London, and zero (95% CI 0-0.007) in non-Metropolitan areas. Irrespective of mother's region of birth, seroprevalence was 4.2 times higher (95% CI 3.0-5.8) in newborns whose father's details were not recorded at birth registration, a marker for single unsupported mothers.
Conclusion: The risk of HIV among pregnant women from sub-Saharan Africa has been recognized. However, in southern England, HIV is very rare in women from Southern Asia and in UK-born women in ethnic minority communities, in spite of cultural and travel ties to high-prevalence countries. Data linkage in anonymous surveys assists in monitoring the impact of the worldwide epidemic on prevalence and incidence locally.