New data show continued decline in AIDS deaths
National mortality data released today at the National HIV Prevention Conference by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that AIDS deaths dropped 20% between 1997 and 1998. The new data revealed that 17,047 people died of AIDS in 1998, down from 21,222 in 1997.
"Any reduction in the number of Americans dying from AIDS is good news," said Jeffrey P. Koplan, M.D., M.P.H., Director, CDC. "We should pause and fully recognize the tremendous public health accomplishment that has been achieved by reducing AIDS related mortality from 50,000 deaths a year in 1995 to an annual rate of just under 20,000. Yet we must also recognize that we are a long way from winning this battle."
In particular, Koplan noted that the new data show that while the actual number of deaths have declined, the mortality rate may be starting to stabilize. The rate of decline in overall AIDS deaths between 1997 and 1998 (20%) was significantly less than the rate of decline experienced between 1996 and 1997 (42%). While close monitoring will be required to fully determine the reasons for the trend, researchers believe a combination of factors are likely contributing to the slowing decline in deaths, including having already reached most individuals who already know they are infected with HIV and are susceptible to treatment, treatment failure caused by factors such as viral drug resistance, and difficulty with adherence to treatment.
While the slowing and ultimate stabilization of AIDS deaths are not unexpected, Koplan stressed that further reductions in disease and death will require further biomedical research to develop even more effective therapies as well as heightened efforts to increase HIV testing and provide prevention and early treatment. CDC is expanding its prevention programs to increase efforts to encourage HIV testing, as well as sustained prevention and treatment services for the increasing number of people living with HIV infection.
While prevention has helped slow the epidemic in the United States from a period of rapid growth in the 1980s (over 150,000 infections a year), CDC estimates new HIV infections are now roughly stable at about 40,000 per year. As AIDS cases and deaths have declined and HIV infected individuals are living longer, HIV and AIDS prevalence in the United States have continued to increase. This increase makes the need for HIV prevention and care greater than ever before, especially in communities of color.
AIDS death rates in 1998 remained nearly 10 times higher among African Americans than whites. African Americans represent only 13% of the U.S. population, but accounted for 49% of AIDS deaths. Moreover, African Americans are experiencing less dramatic declines in AIDS deaths than whites. Among African Americans, deaths fell 17% in 1998, compared to 35% in the previous year. (Compared with a decline of 22% in 1998 and 51% in 1997 among whites.)
"Ultimately how we succeed in affecting the course of the HIV epidemic in communities of color will be a measure of our collective ability to better target HIV prevention, research, and treatment," said Dr. Koplan.
CDC's partnerships with African American communities were greatly strengthened this year when African American community leaders joined with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Congressional Black Caucus to substantially increase the funding and support that is available to HIV prevention programs in communities of color. HHS also initiated Crisis Response Teams to provide special technical assistance from federal teams of experts to help combat the spread of HIV/AIDS among racial and ethnic minority populations. CDC is also actively working with Latino communities and others hard hit by the epidemic to build and sustain effective prevention programs.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES