HEALTH & WELLNESS History of the Red Ribbon I n 1991, a decade after the emergence of HIV, 12 artists gathered in a gallery in New York’s East Village. They had met to discuss a new project for Visual Aids, a New York HIV-awareness arts organization. It was there that they came up with what would become one of the most recognized symbols of the decade: The red ribbon, worn to signify awareness and support for people living with HIV. At the time, HIV was highly stigmatized, and the suffering of communities living with HIV remained largely hidden. The artists wanted to create a visual expression of compassion for people living with HIV. They took inspiration from the yellow ribbons tied on trees to show support for the U.S. military fighting in the Gulf War. Additionally, they decided that the elegant loop of the ribbon shape was easy to make and replicate. They avoided traditional colors associated with the gay community such as pink and rainbow stripes, because they wanted to convey that HIV was relevant to everyone. They chose red for its boldness and symbolic associations with passion, the heart and love. In the early days, the artists made the ribbons themselves and distributed them around New York art galleries and theaters. Initially, they included some text to explain the ribbon’s significance, but as the ribbon became more famous, this was no longer needed. Within weeks, the red ribbon could be seen being worn at such high-profile places as the red carpet at the Academy Awards. The media took notice, and within a short space of time, the symbol became universally recognized. At the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness, held at London’s Wembley Stadium on Easter Sunday 1992, more than 100,000 red ribbons were distributed among the audience, and were worn by performers like George Michael. The red ribbon continues to be a powerful force in the efforts to increase public awareness of HIV. It has inspired other charities to utilize the symbol in various colors, such as the pink breast cancer awareness ribbon. The hashtag for the 2017 World Aids Day campaign is #LetsEndIt. For more information, visit SAVVY I SOPHISTICATED I SASSY 73