Today is World AIDS Day, an awareness project that’s been around for nearly 3 decades. Aids has killed 35 million since the first global outbreak, and activists have been keen to raise awareness ever since.
Visual AIDS, a New-York based charity group of art professionals, formed the Ribbon Project in 1991, which led to the rise of the red ribbon being associated with the cause. Their aim was to recognise and honour friends and colleagues affected by AIDS.
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The artists wanted to get people talking about HIV during a time when the virus was surrounded by stigma, with people suffering in silence and living in fear of telling their loved ones.
Inspiration for the red ribbons came from the yellow ribbons tied on trees to show support for the US military fighting in the Gulf War. Red was chosen as it is bold and visible, representing passion, a heart and love.
The symbol is easy to replicate – anyone can cut out a piece of ribbon, loop it around a finger and pin it to clothing.
Within weeks of the red ribbon being distributed, world-famous actors began wearing it to high-profile ceremonies such as the Oscars and discussing its importance. The media picked up on it, and soon the symbol became universally recognised.
Lots of progress has been made since the first World AIDS day in 1988. Drugs are available to keep the virus from spreading, mothers can have healthy babies, and the lifespan of an infected person has risen from a few years to an additional 50.
Red ribbons are being sold at tube and train stations across the country and in MAC stores with a suggested donation of £1.