Despite the dramatic costs that the AIDS virus is still exacting, many people have the mistaken impression that the epidemic has been virtually conquered in the US and is now just a scourge of poor nations abroad.

Today — the 20th anniversary of the first World AIDS Day — is a good time to check the numbers, usefully compiled by the Think Progress blog.

AIDS is the number one killer for black women between the ages of 25 and 34.

Black women are now almost 15 times as likely to be infected with HIV and 23 times more likely to be diagnosed with AIDS as white women.

The HIV rate in Washington, D.C., our nation’s capital, is 1 in 20–the same as the overall rate in sub-Saharan Africa.

A total of 56,300 people in the United States were newly infected with HIV in 2006, a number 40 percent higher than previously estimated.

A national AIDS strategy is clearly a priority. A good plan would start with the immediate passing of the Early Treatment for HIV/AIDS Act and the reauthorization the Ryan White Care Act.

Beyond lobbying your reps for passage of these acts, the World AIDS Day website offers numerous good ways to help in the fight against the AIDS pandemic. Join a campaign. Attend an event. Send a letter. Raise money. Volunteer your time. If you’re in school, see what you can do on your campus.