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Image of the Week: Children

29 Nov, 2013

B0004942 AIDS ribbons with balloon

This Sunday (1 December) is World AIDS Day. The simple image above is one of a series of drawings on Wellcome Images by artist Stevie Taylor, capturing the iconic status of the red ribbon that has been used to raise awareness of the disease around the world since 1991.

The World AIDS Day website explains where the idea for the ribbon came from: it was created by a group of artists in New York who wanted to get people talking about HIV and AIDS at a time when the disease was highly stigmatised. Two decades later, most people in the world have heard of HIV and AIDS but more than 2 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2012. Maintaining and extending knowledge of the infection and how to reduce the risk of transmitting it continues to be vital. On Monday 2 December, an event at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine will present archive collections of posters that have been used over the years and around the world to help raise awareness of HIV/AIDS, including many from the Wellcome Library.

Although most deaths related to AIDS are in people aged 25-49, it affects the whole community: quite apart from the children who lose one or both parents to the disease, there are many others who are infected from birth. Although about 75% of babies born to mothers infected with HIV remain uninfected, it is important to understand why it is transmitted in the other cases. Research at the Wellcome Trust-funded Africa Centre has been looking at this for many years and their work  led to the World Health Organization and UNAIDS revising their guidelines on how to feed babies who have HIV-infected mothers, reducing transmission rates and freeing thousands of children from a life of illness. A poignant reminder of young lives lost to AIDS, the balloon in Taylor’s drawing also holds hope for the future.

Image credit: Stevie Taylor, Wellcome Images. This series of drawings dates back to 1997, by which time the ribbon was  firmly established as a global symbol of HIV/AIDS awareness. You can read more about Taylor and her work in a previous post about her oil painting ‘Tell – Tell me’.

Wellcome Images is one of the world’s richest and most unusual collections, with themes ranging from medical and social history to contemporary healthcare and biomedical science. All our images are available in digital form and many are free to use non-commercially under the terms of a Creative Commons licence.

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