Why Awareness Ribbons Are Used

Awareness ribbons are worn on lapels, as charms on bracelets and necklaces, or magnets attached to vehicles have become common to show support for various charitable causes. Learn what each ribbon color means and show support according to the reason that means the most to you and your family.

65 Popular Colors for Awareness Ribbons and What They Mean


Leukemia, Hunger, kidney cancer, racial tolerance, addiction recovery, and suicide prevention.


Alzheimer’s, Lupus, Fibromyalgia, pancreatic cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid cancer, domestic violence, animal abuse, religious tolerance, anti-bullying, cancer survivors.


Pink ribbons are used to raise awareness and financial support for breast cancer research and treatment. The pink ribbons were selected when two women discovered they were working on the same idea, but with different colors. A new color was chosen, creating what is now one of the most important symbols of support.


Red ribbons symbolize support for HIV/AIDS awareness as well as drug abuse. Enrique Camarena was an undercover DEA agent murdered in 1985; his death gave rise to Camarena Camps in California. Campers pledged to live a drug-free life and wore satin badges as a symbol of promise. The HIV/AIDS red ribbon project began in 1991: Jeremy Irons debuted the red ribbon at the Tony Awards the same year.


The symbol for environmental protection, organ and tissue donation, homeopathy, child depression, missing children, bipolar disorder, Tourette’s syndrome, bone marrow transplants, glaucoma, leukemia.


Black bands are used to indicate mourning, gang violence, and skin cancer. Black armbands have long been worn as a symbol of respect for those who died as victims in tragedies, such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the victims of the 2007 Peru earthquake, and the 29 New Zealand miners who died a mine explosion in 2010.


Child abuse and prevention, education, alopecia, Epstein-Barr virus, prostate cancer, thyroid, colon cancer, deaf people, aquatic accidents, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, hearing loss, Guillain barre syndrome.


The yellow ribbons’ significance was thought to have begun when Penne Laingen took the 1973 song “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” by Tony Orlando and Dawn; the yellow ribbons signify love and support for those who will be part of the Armed Forces. Penne Laindgen tied yellow ribbons around the tree in the field to show support for her husband, who was taken hostage in Iran in 1976. Military deployments brought by the 1990s the yellow ribbon back. Yellow ribbons are often magnetic and placed on family members’ vehicles with loved ones serving in the military.

As you can see, there are as many awareness ribbons colors as there are causes to champion. The important thing about these symbols is to make people’s needs visible, create empathy, and spread the reason in search of the support that is needed, creating a change of consciousness.