ATLANTAAIDS deaths fell by 20% between 1997 and 1998, but this was a significantly smaller decline than the 42% fall in mortality that occurred between 1996 and 1997, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Any reduction in the number of Americans dying from AIDS is good news, said Jeffrey P. Koplan, MD, MPH, director of the CDC. AIDS-related mortality fell from 49,351 deaths in 1995 to 36,792 in 1996, to 21,222 in 1997, and to 17,047 in 1998. The declines have been fueled by the success of new AIDS regimens that include protease inhibitors. But now it appears that the rate of decline may be stabilizing, Dr. Koplan said.
He proposed the following reasons for the slowing decline in AIDS deaths:
Most people who know they are infected are already being treated with the new AIDS regimens.
The new treatments may fail eventually in some patients due to the development of drug resistance.
Patients may have difficulty following the complicated drug regimens required to suppress the virus.
Dr. Koplan noted that new HIV infections are now roughly stable at about 40,000 a year. As HIV-infected individuals are living longer, HIV and AIDS prevalence in the United States have continued to increase, making the need for HIV prevention and care greater than ever before, he said, especially in communities of color. AIDS death rates in 1998 remained nearly 10 times higher among blacks than whites.