The public health applications of unlinked anonymous seroprevalence monitoring for HIV in the United Kingdom

Angus Nicoll*, O. Noel Gill, Catherine S. Peckham, A. E. Ades, John Parry, Philip Mortimer, David Goldberg, Ahilya Noone, Diane Bennett, Mike Catchpole

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Background: In order to monitor the epidemiology of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), integrated national programmes of unlinked anonymous (blinded) HIV serosurveys have taken place in the UK since 1990. Methods: The programmes comprise multi-centre surveys primarily using specimens gathered routinely for screening groups of patients. All specimens are irreversibly unlinked from patient identifiers before being tested. Results: The surveys have met their prime aim of providing at low cost minimally biased estimates of current HIV prevalence and trends in sentinel populations. The surveys have remained acceptable to professionals and the public, being successfully implemented without breech of their founding principles. The findings have had major public health applications, have influenced HIV policy and funding, been used for monitoring the spread of HIV, for targeting and evaluating health promotion and improving projections of severe HIV disease. The surveys have detected substantial prevalence rises and under-diagnosis of HIV which would otherwise have been unrecognised. The programmes' value is being increased by sub-typing HIV-1 isolates, capturing additional demographic information to detect spread among minority groups. The same specimens are used for monitoring other infections (initially hepatitis A, B and C). Conclusions: Monitoring HIV and other infections through unlinked anonymous HIV surveillance has become an integral essential part of national HIV and AIDS surveillance. Although it has unique applications the value of unlinked anonymous surveillance is maximized when used in conjunction with behavioural data, information from HIV and AIDS reporting, and behavioural data and surveillance for other sexually transmitted infections.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • HIV
  • Public health
  • Serosurveillance
  • Surveillance


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