© The Author(s) 2019. We audited the records of unselected hospitalised HIV-positive adults admitted to a University-affiliated inner London hospital to identify the frequency of elevated red blood cell distribution width (RDW), and potential associations with specific diagnoses, and with outcome. Of 259 patients audited, 188 (73%) were men. Patients’ median age was 47 years (interquartile range = 41–54). An elevated RDW was seen in 50 patients (19%); 200 (77%) had an elevated C-reactive protein (CRP), and 77 (30%) had a low haemoglobin. Only five patients had an elevated RDW without an elevated CRP and/or low haemoglobin. An elevated RDW was associated with a wide range of infectious, inflammatory, and malignant conditions similar to observed associations reported in the general non-HIV infected adult population. Additionally an elevated RDW occurred both in patients with well-controlled HIV infection and in receipt of antiretroviral therapy, as well as in those with newly diagnosed and poorly-controlled infection. Five (10%) of 50 patients with an elevated RDW needed intensive care unit (ICU) admission and two (4%) died. Two (0.95%) of 209 patients with a normal RDW needed ICU admission and four (1.9%) died. The findings of this audit are limited by the relatively small number of patients and the single site nature of the audit.