Now that an estimated 40 million people are living with HIV worldwide, the AIDS epidemic has surpassed even the most dire predictions made by experts when the virus first surfaced 25 years ago.

AIDS has killed more than 25 million people, and the United Nations reports that somebody in the world is newly infected with HIV every 8 seconds. Many other numbers are just as grim as people around the globe mark World AIDS Day.

Since its inception in 1988, World AIDS Day has raised awareness of the realities of the virus, which is spreading widely through sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe and East Africa at the same time as new drug cocktails have served to push back the disease in the affluent parts of what we used to call the “First World.”

How to help?

*Participate in a World AIDS Day event or action on December 1.

*Help save a child’s life in an AIDS-affected community by becoming a HopeChild sponsor through WorldVision. (All it takes is one dollar a day.)

*Build support for the AIDS Cure Act.

*Volunteer with the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP), one of the country’s most effective grassroots groups working to ensure the development of an effective range of HIV prevention options.

*Download the Free Treatment for All manifesto and add your name to the campaign.

*Echo the Global Access Project’s call to urge the US government to lead a global health workforce initiative in AIDS ravaged countries.

*Show your symbolic support by wearing a red ribbon on World AIDS Day and putting a virtual red ribbon on your site or blog.

Finally, talk to people. Since HIV was first identified a quarter of a century ago, it has been a stigmatized disease, resulting in silence and denial. Talking openly about HIV to your friends, family, colleagues and neighbors is the most powerful way of ending prejudice.