We prove that the Novikov conjecture holds for any discrete group admitting an isometric and metrically proper action on an admissible Hilbert-Hadamard space. Admissible Hilbert-Hadamard spaces are a class of (possibly infinite-dimensional) non-positively curved metric spaces that contain dense sequences of closed convex subsets isometric to Riemannian manifolds. Examples of admissible Hilbert-Hadamard spaces include Hilbert spaces, certain simply connected and non-positively curved Riemannian-Hilbertian manifolds and infinite-dimensional symmetric spaces. Thus our main theorem can be considered as an infinite-dimensional analogue of Kasparov’s theorem on the Novikov conjecture for groups acting properly and isometrically on complete, simply connected and non-positively curved manifolds. As a consequence, we show that the Novikov conjecture holds for geometrically discrete subgroups of the group of volume preserving diffeomorphisms of a closed smooth manifold. This result is inspired by Connes’ theorem that the Novikov conjecture holds for higher signatures associated to the Gelfand-Fuchs classes of groups of diffeormorphisms.