why i wear my red ribbon

On World Aids Day people wear their hearts on their sleeve. Cayte Williams asks why

Debbie Vowles, 41, Health Promotion Officer

"Back in 1986 a friend who I hadn't seen for four years died. His death was a complete mystery until it emerged he'd suffered from Aids. We did have a sexual relationship, so I rang the HIV helpline. They said that I was at risk and should have a test.

"At the time I worked for the British Council and my friend's death happened three days before I was due to go to Uganda on business. I was thinking I'd forget about it all out there but one of the first cases I had to deal with was a man with Aids. Having thought I'd escaped from HIV, I found myself beset with problems about it. And it changed my life.

"A few years later I went back to Uganda, at which point a tenth of the population were infected. I knew people who had eight graves in the garden and people had to choose which funeral to go to. It was a very, very sobering experience.

"When I came back I did a Masters in health promotion, focusing on HIV- infected women. I work with a lot of gay men who either have the virus or are affected by it. I go to quite a few funerals each year. Working in the fight against Aids helps me and I hope it helps other people.

"I don't always wear my red ribbon but it certainly has an importance and resonance for me. I don't think it's appropriate to wear it all the time - I put it on my coat in winter because it cheers me up!

"I wore my ribbon to a philosophy evening class recently and people (mostly men) were saying: 'Oh, gay men bring it on themselves' or 'they're against God'. When people confront me, sometimes I'm rude, sometimes we agree to differ and sometimes I talk about the people who've been affected. I talk about humility."

Heinz Schweers, 25, Educational Consultant

"I was approached by a man at Paddington Station with a collection for World Aids Day and I bought a red ribbon. I'm gay, but this is the first time I've worn a ribbon. I've only recently come out and I've never felt confident enough to wear one before because people assume you're gay if you wear one. Now I'm proud to walk around proclaiming my sexuality on my chest. I suppose it's my allegiance to the gay community. I know of many people who've had their partners or best friends die - it's a terrible thing to watch people suffer."

Deborah Ramswell, 31, Club Promoter

"As I work in the clubbing scene, a lot of my friends are gay, but I'd wear a red ribbon whether I had gay friends or not. It saddens and angers me that people I love and care about are suffering because their friends are dying. A close friend of mine is going through that process now - his friend will die any day now and it feels so wrong. Aids has been around for a long time, but the grieving never lessens.

"None of my friends or colleagues ever comments on my red ribbon, because we all wear them for World Aids Day. I think I'd go ballistic if anybody had a go at me for wearing it. People need to be aware of the HIV problem, even though a lot of the original interest in World Aids Day has wound down. It should never be a fashion thing."

Pinder Chaggar, 35, Project Worker

"I work for Centrepoint, the homeless organisation. Because I work in the Berwick Street site [near London's gay Old Compton Street district] I often come into contact with people who are HIV positive, either through sexual contact, or through drugs.

"People at college assume I'm gay because I wear the ribbon. I'm not but it doesn't bother me that they think I am. I always wear a ribbon on this jacket and I wear this jacket every day. I used to wear the same ribbon every year but it got very tatty so I bought an enamel one, which fell off. It upset me when I lost it, but now I'm wearing this new one."

Suggested Topics
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Sport
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
News
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
Extras
indybest10 best gardening gloves
News
Russia's President Vladimir Putin gives his annual televised question-and-answer session
peopleBizarre TV claim
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
Arts & Entertainment
Comedian Lenny Henry is calling for more regulation to support ethnic actors on TV
tvActor and comedian leads campaign against 'lack of diversity' in British television
News
Posted at the end of March, this tweeted photo was a week off the end of their Broadway shows
people
News
peopleStar to remain in hospital for up to 27 days to get over allergic reaction
Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Life & Style
life
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Apprentice IT Technician

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

    1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

    £153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

    1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

    Sales Associate Apprentice

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

    Day In a Page

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit