Dramatic decline in AIDS deaths reported nationally in 1997

CHICAGO (AP) — AIDS deaths across the United States dropped a stunning 44 percent in the first half of last year, showing the power of new treatments to control the disease.
Doctors have known almost since they began widely prescribing potent three-drug combinations two years ago that fewer people with AIDS were dying, but even the experts seem surprised by the scope of their success.
The latest evidence of this change came Monday when CDC officials presented new data at the Fifth Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections.
Deaths from AIDS peaked in 1994 and 1995, then nosed downward in 1996. Last year, that fall accelerated.
According to the CDC, 12,040 Americans died of AIDS in the first half of 1997, compared with 21,460 in the first half of 1996. The total nationwide figures for last year will not be tallied until July. However, they are already in for New York City, and they show an even more impressive change.
Experts from the city Department of Health reported that AIDS deaths fell there 48 percent in 1997. This comes on top of a 29 percent decline in New York AIDS deaths in 1996.
The New York data show that both men and women and people of all races are benefiting from the lifesaving breakthroughs in AIDS treatment.
Sixteen percent of the nation’s AIDS cases are in New York City. About 100,000 New Yorkers have had AIDS, and 65,000 have died of the disease.
Experts attribute the improving figures to better treatments, not any advances in preventing people from catching HIV.
With fewer dying, the number of Americans living with AIDS is increasing, up 13 percent to 259,000.
While no one knows precisely how many Americans are infected with HIV, the CDC estimates this to be between 400,000 and 650,000 people.