Back in 1988 when The World Health Organization (WHO) first established World AIDS Day (which we’ll honor on Dec 1), the virus was still fairly new and largely misunderstood. Today, through medical advances and research, we know a lot more about how the virus works, how it is transmitted, and how people with HIV or AIDS can manage their health and lives.

And yet HIV and AIDS continue to be a global epidemic – particularly because there is still no cure. In the United States, more than 1 million people currently live with HIV, and someone is infected with HIV every 9.5 minutes. Globally the situation is even more dire: across the world more than 33 million people live with HIV and AIDS, and 97% of those people live in low and middle-income countries, particularly sub-Saharan Africa. And according to the WHO, most people who have HIV or at high-risk for it do not have access to prevention, care, or treatment.

Considering these stats it’s clear that, 24 years after it was founded, World AIDS Day remains vital. This year’s theme is “Working Together for an AIDS-Free Generation,” and true to the name, fighting AIDS globally will require many people working together across the world. Here are some ways you can honor the day and make a difference locally and globally:

  • Plan a World AIDS Day event: Check out these resources and tips for planning an AIDS awareness event in your neighborhood. Check out other events and updates on the official #WAD2012 Twitter feed.
  • AFAID: Donate to support the work of this organization, which “provides youth with the tools, knowledge and resources to protect themselves against HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, and alleviates poverty” in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Firelight Foundation: Support this foundation’s work, which has a mission to “improve the wellbeing of children made vulnerable by HIV, AIDS and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.”
  • AIDS Quilt: Started in 1987, the ever-growing AIDS Quilt is now more than 48,000 panels big (that’s 8,000 blocks long!). Make a panel for the quilt, or host a section of it at your campus or in your community. Find out how here.
  • Project Chicken Soup: Volunteer with or donate to support this Los Angeles-based organization, which delivers free, nutritious, kosher meals to local residents living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other serious illnesses.
  • Housing Works: Donate to, volunteer with, (or shop at!) this New York City-based organization/thrift store, which works to “end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS through relentless advocacy, the provision of lifesaving services, and entrepreneurial businesses that sustain our efforts.”
  • God’s Love We Deliver: Volunteer with or donate to this organization, which prepares and delivers nutritious, high-quality meals, and offers nutrition education and counseling to people living with HIV/AIDS and other serious illnesses.
  • AIDS Walk: Help to “change the course of the epidemic.” Sign up to walk and raise money for AIDS research in 2013.

For more information, check out this article that Rachel Farbiarz wrote for AJWS called “The Jewish Response to HIV/AIDS.” Then let us know how you’re observing World AIDS Day by tweeting us at @repairtheworld, or leaving a comment below.