Background: AIDS has become a leading cause of premature mortality in many countries, owing to the decline in other major causes of premature death and the increase in AIDS itself. This study was carried out to determine the trends in premature mortality due to selected causes in Italy.
Methods: Data from the Italian Mortality Data Base, for the ten years from 1984 to 1993 (the first decade of the AIDS epidemic) were analysed. Premature mortality was measured in terms of years of potential life lost before the age of 70 years (YPLL), excluding infant mortality. Trends in premature mortality due to AIDS were compared with those of the principal causes of premature death: lung cancer, colon-rectum cancer, stomach cancer, leukaemia, female breast cancer, uterine cancer, myocardial infarction, stroke, liver diseases, suicide, road accidents and overdose.
Results: In this period there has been a marked increase in premature mortality from AIDS both among males aged 1-69 years (from a rate of YPLL of 0.01 per 1000 in 1984 to 3.71 in 1993) and females of the same age group (from 0 deaths in 1984 to a rate of YPLL of 1.02). Throughout the same period all the other causes of premature death have been declining, with the exception of suicide and overdose among males, and overdose and lung cancer among females. For people aged 25-44 years, AIDS has become the greatest cause of premature death. The increasing trend in premature mortality due to AIDS is most pronounced in the northern and central areas of Italy.
Conclusions: AIDS is the leading cause of death among males aged 25-44 years in Italy and is having an important impact on premature mortality among females in the same age group.