AIDS: Death Rate Drops Sharply Across State and Nation
"AIDS deaths dropped more than 60% in Sacramento, San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles counties in the first half of last year," the Sacramento Bee reports. A total of 180 people died of AIDS in San Francisco County in the first half of last year, compared with 543 in the same period of the previous year, for a 67% decline. Sacramento County saw a 63.4% reduction, with 33 people dying of AIDS in the first half of last year "compared with 90 in the same period of 1996." Across the state, "AIDS deaths fell among people of all age groups, all racial and ethnic groups and regardless of mode of transmission" (Griffith, 2/3). Orange County and Los Angeles also saw major declines, the Los Angeles Times reports. "The Orange County AIDS Surveillance and Monitoring Program reported 41 AIDS deaths in the first half of 1997, compared to 113 deaths during the same period in 1996, a decrease of 64%," the Times reports. According to Dr. Paul Simon of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, the number of AIDS deaths in Los Angeles "dropped 55% from 1996 to 1997 and the number of new cases reported dropped 32%."
All Across The Nation
AIDS deaths also dropped nationally. The Times reports that the "number of AIDS deaths in the United States dropped 44% in the first half of 1997 compared to the same period in 1996." The decline follows a 14% decline in 1996, representing the first two-year drop since the epidemic began in the early 1980s. "According to the figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ... the number of new AIDS cases dropped 12%" during the first half of 1997, "although the number of people living with AIDS rose 12% to 259,000" (Maugh, 2/3). The major coastal cities showed the sharpest drop in deaths nationwide, with a decline in New York City of 48% from 4,998 in 1996 to 2,600 in 1997, the New York Times reports (Altman, 2/3). Doctors said the decline in AIDS deaths can be attributed to the advent of "drug cocktails," which combine old AIDS drugs, such as AZT, with protease inhibitors. Dr. Kevin DeCock of the CDC, said, "We can't see the end of the epidemic, but it's the beginning of a new era. ... The challenge now is to improve prevention" ( AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press, Haney, 2/3). Infections among infants, the Los Angeles Times notes, "are declining sharply ... as the result of prenatal treatment of the mothers with AZT" (2/3).