An adorned cross is any cross where an additional message is emphasized by the additional feature. Wrap a coloured ribbon around the cross, and you have a neat way of Christianizing your cause.1 This page looks at why the Red Ribbon is used to make the AIDS Cross. It is unique amongst the adorned crosses; where most glorify the feature, the AIDS Cross does not.
But first, let's look at another reason for putting a red ribbon on the cross. The colour red is used to symbolize blood2. The colour is also used by several heart disease awareness groups, and of course red roses say 'I love you'. These three entities: blood, heart, love, are appropriate for adorning a cross. They symbolise how Christ showed love by shedding his blood on the cross two thousand years ago.
Currently, the most popular interpretation for the red ribbon is to focus attention on HIV and AIDS3. Ignorance, stigma and discrimination, whether actual or feared, remain perhaps the most difficult obstacles for the prevention of HIV. The red ribbon has become the internationally recognised symbol for solidarity and tolerance for those often discriminated against. It is a reminder of the constant need to keep up the fight against AIDS.
In the 80s and 90s, some Christians had the naivety of biblical times, when folk shunned lepers and victims of the plague. They felt that HIV/AIDS was God's punishment for drug users and homosexuals. (See also Illness Phobia)
Ignorance breeds fear. Fear is a powerful motivator but a terrible adviser. We now know that HIV does not discriminate and the majority of HIV+ people worldwide are heterosexual and are not drug abusers.
When Christians display the AIDS Cross, often as a lapel pin, they are showing evidence of their prayer, laying the problem at the cross saying "We have a problem; here it is." They are saying to the world: "We are tackling the problem. We have prayed. We are using the cross to spread awareness about AIDS. The cross is our most sacred symbol, yet we are using it for this campaign."
The task is awesome, yet possible, if a sufficient number of people actively join the cause.
Currently around 33.2 million people live with HIV/AIDS, and this includes 2.1 million children. (Source: UNAIDS http://www.unaids.org/en/