AIDS Deaths Falling
In Europe But Rate Of
New Infections Unchanged
"...although death rates have been falling in Europe, rates of new infections has not changed in recent years."
LONDON (AP) -- Death rates in Europe of people infected with the AIDS virus have fallen 84 per cent since 1995, mostly because of new drugs and combinations of treatments, according to a new study.
The study, published in this week's issue of the Lancet, a British medical journal, was the largest of its kind on AIDS-related deaths in Europe -- involving 4,270 HIV patients in 50 centres across Western Europe and Israel.
Death rates are also decreasing in the United States and other developed countries, where advanced treatments are more widely available than in the developing nations. But the decline in death rates in Europe is the steepest reported to date, the researchers said.
The study found that from March to September of 1995, one in four patients died, compared with one in 25 patients who died during the same period in 1998.
The decline began after September 1995, coinciding with the introduction of a new class of drugs called protease inhibitors, and the new way the drugs were combined.
"It was quite clear that these treatments are decreasing death rates, but we didn't know the extent of the impact," said Andrew Phillips, one of the lead researchers of the study at London's Royal Free Centre for HIV Medicine.
A study earlier this year found that deaths in the United States decreased by 75 per cent between early 1994 and mid-1997.
About 33 million people around the world are infected with HIV -- two-thirds of them in sub-Saharan Africa and about two per cent in Western Europe.
Phillips said scientists do not know whether the death rate will stay down.
There is a danger that it may creep up again after patients have been taking the new drugs for a few years, unless new treatments are developed.
The United Nations said earlier this week that although death rates have been falling in Europe, rates of new infections has not changed in recent years.