Feature story

Wear your red ribbon this World AIDS Day

30 November 2006

World AIDS Day 2019 theme — Communities make the difference


The red ribbon has become an internationally recognized symbol for AIDS awareness, worn by people throughout the year in support of people living with HIV and in remembrance of those who have died. On 1 December this year, people around the world will be pinning on their red ribbons as they commemorate World AIDS Day. But where did the ribbon come from?
In 1988, a group called Visual AIDS was founded by arts professionals as a response to the effects of AIDS on the arts community and as a way of organizing artists, arts institutions, and arts audiences towards direct action on AIDS.

Three years later, in 1991, some of the Visual AIDS artists came together to design a visual symbol to demonstrate compassion for people living with HIV and their care givers. Inspired by the yellow ribbons honoring American soldiers serving in the Gulf war, the artists chose to create a red ribbon to symbolize support and solidarity for people living with HIV and to remember those who have died from AIDS-related illnesses. The color red was chosen for its, "connection to blood and the idea of passion -- not only anger, but love, like a valentine," the Project founders say. The project was to become known as the Red Ribbon Project.

In a spontaneous campaign in 1991, Red Ribbon Project volunteers sent letters and red ribbons to all attendees at the Tony Awards in the United States where actor Jeremy Irons stepped out on national television with a red ribbon pinned prominently on his lapel.

The symbol came to Europe on a mass scale on Easter Monday in 1992, when more than 100,000 red ribbons were distributed during the Freddie Mercury AIDS Awareness Tribute Concert at Wembley stadium. More than one billion people in more than 70 countries worldwide watched the show on television. Throughout the nineties many celebrities wore red ribbons, encouraged by Princess Diana’s high profile support for AIDS.

“The fact that it was so widely imitated was amazing. We couldn't believe it,” said Allan Frame, one of the Visual AIDS artists involved in the creation of the red ribbon symbol.

Today the Red Ribbon has become an international symbol of solidarity and support for people living with HIV. Wearing a red ribbon is a simple and powerful way to challenge the stigma and prejudice surrounding AIDS .Wear yours with pride this World AIDS Day.

For more information on World AIDS Day activities around the world please visit the World AIDS Campaign website at: www.worldaidscampaign.info

Note: The red ribbon is a non copyrighted image that can be used freely around the world as an awareness-raising tool.