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Designers fight HIV stigma with rediscovered AIDS band – Quartzy

Today is World AIDS Day, an international solidarity day for the estimated 37 million people living with HIV and AIDS…

Today is World AIDS Day, an international solidarity day for the estimated 37 million people living with HIV and AIDS around the world. UK National Trust urges everyone to “rock the band”, referring to the iconic symbol that has become the single field for almost all HIV and AIDS campaigns worldwide.

United Kingdom United Kingdom

2018 National AIDS Trust Campaign

The Red Band started as a protest action. Created in 1991 by the New York-based Visual AIDS Artist Caucus, it was intended as a sign of compassion for people living with AIDS, who at that time had to conceal their disease for fear of being extinct. The US government was notoriously slow to deal with the 1980s pandemic, despite thousands of HIV-related deaths, and groups like Visual AIDS took the streets to raise awareness of the public.

The design of the six inch red band fell together, an inverted “V” came from Marc Happel, a costume designer inspired by the yellow bands used to honor military soldiers. Happel and a small group of volunteer “ribbon bees” made hundreds of grosgrain bands as they stuck on free handouts.

The tire became an immediate sense of celebrities wearing them at great prizes. Visual AIDS decided that the brand design and other cause-marketing initiatives – from alopecia to schizophrenia – soon copied it. Today there is an awareness band in all shades and patterns. Campaigns for heart disease, stroke and drug abuse did not even bother to choose a new color. They use all the red bands that the AIDS activists pioneer.


The red band, once a radical symbol, is today a graphic design cliché. Designers simply can not get away from it. Each brochure, poster and brand project about HIV or AIDS appears to require a version of the all-around fabric loop.

The plague of painful corny band designer – including those from the official World AIDS Day website – makes the Shuka Design’s solution for SPID.Center (aka AIDS.Center Foundation, or Фонд «СПИД.Центр) in Moscow so refreshing. Unveiling it at the all-new conference in New York in September, the founders Ivan Vasin and Ivan Velichko explained why they had to move beyond the red band.

“The situation in Russia may be the situation in the United States 20 years ago.”

HIV infection rates increase in Russia according to UNAIDS data. About 250 people are diagnosed with HIV every day there, and conservative government policies have prevented HIV prevention and treatment programs. Since the stigmatization around the disease is still very high in Russia, paracetamy of the established AIDS awareness band would do more harm, explaining Vasin and Velichko, most famous for their sexy rebranding of the World Chess Championship.

“There is a huge gap between them with and without HIV. Those with HIV can not get jobs or proper services,” Vasin explains. “The situation in Russia may be the situation in the United States 20 years ago.”

Shuka Design


“How do you talk to the Russians about something as important as HIV literacy? We are not those for pads and hands over everything. Meet It There are only two things that can unite us. Shuka Design

Mining Traditional Folklore and Art, Shuka Design came up with a solution that resonates with most Russians: the horse.

Moscow Coat of Arms.

As an avatar of heroic struggle, the horse is an important symbol of the Russian imagination. Horses occur in folklore, public architecture, corporate branding and tourism campaigns. The horse is a central figure in the Moscow coat of arms, with Saint George astride a horse fighting with a dragon.

“Horses symbolize hard work,” explains Alexey Mikheev in Russia Beyond. “It is often said about workaholics that they plow like a horse.”

The horse is also the central figure in an iconic symbol of social change in Russia: Kuzma Petrov-Vodkins 1912 painting “Bad of a Red Horse”. The SPID.Center brand has creative variations on this red horse, often elongated to imitate a bus to create a welcoming platform for all Russians, with or without HIV.

Kuzma Petrov-Vodkins “Bathing of a Red Horse,” 1912.

“Reminds me of those still standing and those who fell in the infinite battle. The horse is death itself, tamed and submissive through consciousness, writes Velichko.

Shuka Design

Shuka Design

Russian twist

Vasin and Velichko, who met with quartz in New York, say this small project is especially special for its growing studio. They explain that SPID.Cents co-founder, television subscriber Anton Krasovsky, is one of the first open gay personalities who speak of HIV in Russian media. “This is a very small reason, but it is a really cozy place in central Moscow where people with HIV can have meetings together,” says Velichko, who came up with the horse motive. “It’s a lot important project for us as designers and artists. “Nodding, adds Vachim,” it’s about real people, it’s about real life. “

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