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11:24 AM ET 05/11/99

AIDS Is Top Infectious Killer

 AIDS Is Top Infectious Killer
 By GEIR MOULSON=
 Associated Press Writer=
 	   GENEVA (AP) _ AIDS has become the world's most deadly infectious
 disease in the last year, overtaking tuberculosis and moving up to
 fourth place among all causes of death worldwide, the World Health
 Organization said today.
 	   A decline in deaths attributed to TB accounted for AIDS moving
 up from last year's seventh-place ranking. The estimated number of
 deaths caused by AIDS in 1998 remained comparable to the previous
 year's death count, about 2.28 million worldwide.
 	   The WHO's list is topped by heart disease, which killed almost
 7.38 million people last year _ 13.7 percent of deaths worldwide.
 	   Strokes and acute respiratory infections accounted for 5.1
 million and 3.45 million deaths respectively, the agency said.
 	   WHO said noncommunicable ailments would probably continue to
 account for a majority of global disease because of aging
 populations, a lack of exercise, and tobacco and alcohol abuse.
 	   Tuberculosis, which last year was the world's most deadly
 transmittable disease, fell from fourth to eighth place overall. It
 killed just under 1.5 million people in 1998.
 	   Experts arrived at that figure _ which compares with 2.9 million
 in the 1997 report _ after a long-term effort to improve estimates,
 said Mario Raviglione, coordinator of WHO's epidemiology research
 team. HIV-related deaths from tuberculosis were removed.
 	   ``AIDS has been with us for just 20 years and already it is
 killing more people than any other infectious disease,'' said Peter
 Piot, executive director of the specialized UNAIDS agency.
 	   ``It is the most formidable pathogen to confront modern
 medicine.''
 	   In Africa, it was the leading cause of death, accounting for 19
 percent of fatalities _ some 2 million people. Heart disease led
 the rankings in the Americas, Europe and Southeast Asia.