What Do Awareness Ribbons Stand For?

While the origin of the solidarity ribbons is not known for sure, perhaps one of the most significant historical testimonies is the yellow ribbon used by the families of U.S. cavalrymen in the 19th century and later mentioned in a military march. That ribbon was worn on the body, on home fronts, and also around trees and columns, in solidarity with fighting soldiers and as a sign of loyalty.

By the 1980s, this custom was massively used in marches and awareness campaigns for a disease that ravaged the world: AIDS, this time using a red ribbon. Over time, the use of these little ribbons of solidarity has become a public statement, which is why today you can see them in countless colors and styles.

Used as symbols of support and awareness for a social cause, solidarity ribbons, ribbons, or bows have become in the last decades an effigy of fraternity among the population all over the world. These small pieces of folded fabric of no more than 10 centimeters form a ribbon that, with its color, represents a cause of solidarity, either to commemorate events, relevant facts and also as a way to raise awareness of diseases.

They are usually small strips of fabric or other materials worn with a small ribbon upwards, mostly decorating clothing at chest level. However, today they are often found in accessories and other items. These simple ribbons are symbols that seek to communicate an idea in a visible way to present to society, in general, a political position, opinion, or cause for the rest of the community to observe and join.

Although each cause was related to a color in principle, the proliferation of solidarity ribbons throughout the world led to some initiatives, such as the fight against Alzheimer’s, the use of purple and white ribbons, or that the same color can mean different reasons.


Although it is generally associated with the fight against AIDS, it also represents cardiovascular or heart disease, hypertension, substance abuse, hemophilia, and tuberculosis.


A black ribbon stands for anti-terrorism, but the black ribbon is also associated with sleep disorders, trauma, melanoma, grief, and gun control.


It is attributed to organ donation, depression, bipolar disorder, glaucoma, organ transplantation, and mental retardation.


Although it represents the fight against breast cancer, it also represents premature births, genetic malformations, childhood and parental cancer.


This is the color that originated this whole trend; it means the fight against suicide, endometriosis; it is the general symbol of hope and support for military troops deployed abroad.


Besides representing the fight against diabetes, it also alludes to brain cancer, asthma, mental illness, and allergies.


Since 1993 it has been used in Spain against ETA and in solidarity with relatives of kidnapped people; it also represents the victims of Hurricane Katrina, child abuse, prostate cancer, colitis, and arthritis.


It symbolizes the fight against Alzheimer’s, pancreatic, testicular, and thyroid cancer, domestic violence, animal abuse, religious tolerance and represents the victims of 9/11.


Denotes the fight against violence, cultural diversity, leukemia, lupus, hunger, melanoma, and racial tolerance.


It is the color of peace and represents bone cancer, the fight against war, child pornography, teenage pregnancy, osteoporosis, postpartum depression, and hernia.


This color embodies the anti-tobacco fight, colon cancer, and family polyposis.

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