WASHINGTON--The number of deaths in the United States from AIDS dropped by 47% last year, nearly double the decline recorded in 1996. The age-adjusted AIDS death rate in 1997 was 5.9 deaths per 100,000 population vs 11.1 per 100,000 in 1996.
The dramatic fall moved the disease off the top 10 list for causes of death for the first time since 1990, the National Center for Health Statistics said in its latest twice-yearly report.
AIDS was the eighth leading cause of death in the United States last year and is now 14th. Among people 25 to 44 years of age, AIDS is now the fifth leading cause of death. In past years, it had been number one on the list in that age group.
Physicians generally credit the fall in mortality to wider use of drug combinations that include protease inhibitors. The protease inhibitors have been available for nearly 3 years.
AIDS mortality is lower now than at any time since 1987 when such data were first reported. Last year, there were 16,685 AIDS deaths in this country, compared with 43,000 in the peak year of 1995.
The report found that the decline cut across gender and racial lines, although the greatest fall was seen among white men.
On a less optimistic note, the report indicated that the rate of HIV infection in this country has not declined, with 40,000 new cases reported last year.