The red ribbon

Order free red ribbons for fundraising here

The red ribbon is the universal symbol of awareness and support for people living with HIV. Wearing a ribbon is a great way to raise awareness on and during the run up to World AIDS Day.

We send out a pack of 100 fabric red ribbons FREE to anybody fundraising in the UK.

You can order a free pack of 100 fabric ribbons to fundraise with here. To place your order, you must confirm that you plan to fundraise with the ribbons, and that you will raise a minimum of £15 to cover the costs of sourcing and sending them.

NAT has also produced a range of exclusive red ribbon brooches. You can purchase one by visiting our shop.

Where can I get a red ribbon?

  • If you are planning to fundraise for NAT, you can order a pack of 100 red ribbons from us free of charge. Simply fill out this order form.
  • You can buy fabric ribbons (individually or in packs) and red ribbon brooches from the NAT shop.

Red Ribbons are also available from our partners. They will be in MAC stores across the country, where you can pick them one up for a suggested donation of £1.

Where did the idea come from?

In 1991, a decade after the emergence of HIV, twelve 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 organisation.

It was there that they came up with what would become one of the most recognised symbols of the decade: the red ribbon, worn to signify awareness and support for people living with HIV.

At the time, HIV was highly stigmatised, 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 US 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 colours 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 for its symbolic associations with passion, the heart and love.

Photos courtesy of The Elizabeth Taylor Archive

How did the ribbon become so well known?

In the early days, the artists made the ribbons themselves and distributed them around New York art galleries and theatres. 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 in such high-profile places as the red carpet of the Oscars. The media took notice and, within a short space of time, the symbol became universally recognised. At the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, held at London's Wembley Stadium on Easter Sunday, 1992, more than 100,000 red ribbons were distributed among the audience, with performers such as George Michael wearing one.

The red ribbon continues to be a powerful force in the efforts to increase public awareness of HIV. It has inspired other charities to utilise the symbol, such as the pink breast cancer awareness ribbon.