Among people aged between 25 and 44, it was the fifth most common cause of death, having topped the list two years before.
The steep fall in the number of Aids deaths was attributed to new treatments available in the US, specifically the multi-drug cocktails that help to suppress the virus. But it was not matched by any decline in the number of new cases of HIV infection, which continued to rise.
As the US Health Secretary, Donna Shalala, said: "These figures mean that new treatments have been very effective in extending the lives of people who already have HIV infection - but they do not mean we have significantly reduced HIV infection." The number of new cases was estimated at 40,000, and the number of deaths could increase again if the respite from the new drugs proves limited.
Deaths from heart disease, cancer and strokes also fell, as did the infant mortality rate. The number of murders and suicides was also lower.Reuse content