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Undiagnosed HIV infections could undermine efforts to reverse the global AIDS epidemic by 2030. In this study, we estimated the percentage of HIV-positive persons who remain undiagnosed within a hyperendemic South African community.The data come from a population-based surveillance system located in the Umkhanyakude district of the northern KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa. We annually tested 38 661 adults for HIV between 2005 and 2016. Using the HIV-positive test results of 12 039 (31%) participants, we then back-calculated the incidence of infection and derived the number of undiagnosed cases from this result.The percentage of undiagnosed HIV cases decreased from 29.3% in 2005 to 15.8% in 2011. During this period, however, approximately 50% of the participants refused to test for HIV, which lengthened the average time from infection to diagnosis. Consequently, the percentage of undiagnosed HIV cases reversed direction and steadily increased from 16.1% to 18.9% over the 2012–2016 period.Results from this hyperendemic South African setting show that the HIV testing rate is low, with long infection times, and an unsatisfactorily high percentage of undiagnosed cases. A high level of repeat HIV testing is needed to minimise the time from infection to diagnosis if the global AIDS epidemic is to be reversed within the next two decades.