World AIDS Day: the Red Ribbon

Poster showing the Red ribbon symbol

Poster using the Red Ribbon symbol

The Red Ribbon is synonymous with raising awareness of HIV/AIDS, and those living with the disease. The ribbon was designed by the New York based Visual AIDS Artists’ Caucus in 1991 as a symbol to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS. It was not trademarked and was not designed to be a commercial design, which allowed the design to be used by anyone who wanted to bring recognition to the disease and the impact it has on lives.


The first Red Ribbon was worn by actor Jeremy Irons at the Tony Awards in 1991: This simple act brought international recognition to the symbol. From there, many high profile figures have worn the ribbon at public events such as the Oscars. It wasn’t long until the ribbon was formally adopted as an international symbol of AIDS awareness and World AIDS Day. In 1992, 100,000 Red Ribbons were distributed to the audience at the Freddie Mercury Tribute. Today, the ribbon is a universal symbol of support and awareness of the disease.


LSHTM Archives were donated the bejewelled Red Ribbon brooch, designed by English artist and jewellery designer, Andrew Logan, who designed it in response to the loss of his friends to the disease; Logan felt it was a fitting celebration of their lives. The brooch was donated by Lyn Rothman, founder of the AIDS Crisis Trust, and who sits on the advisory board of the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Brooch with Andrew Logan’s letter

The Red Ribbon brooch is part of the HIV/AIDS collections held at LSHTM Archives, which are a rich and varied resource demonstrating the national and international responses to the treatment and prevention of the disease. Materials reflect the School’s work on the epidemic, dating back to 1980s and include papers relating to epidemiology, AIDS activism, public health campaigns, health policy formation and contemporary history. If you would like to explore and view the collections you can search our online catalogue, or contact us.

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