Officials say the number of people dying from AIDS-related illnesses in New York City has fallen, but it still stands at a very high figure.

For the first time since 1983, AIDS-related illnesses are no longer one of the top 10 causes of death in the city, Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said on Thursday.

In 2011, it was the ninth biggest cause of mortality, with 766 deaths. The figure dropped to 609 for 2012, according to official statistics.

“It’s a tribute to the efforts that have been made in tackling this epidemic,” Ms Bassett said at a city council budget hearing yesterday.

The New York State HIV/AIDS Surveillance Annual Report, released in August 2013, shows there were 16,189 men who have sex with men (MSM) living with HIV in 2011 – and a further 18,644 classified as living with AIDS – a combined figure of 34,833.

AIDS is classified as a collection of illnesses caused by HIV.

Early diagnosis of the virus and avoiding delays in the commencement of anti-retroviral treatment is seen as crucial when it comes to guarding against the onset of AIDS.