Red Ribbon... 1st of December...

‘Tree of Lives’ branded “Unbelievably inappropriate & wholly insensitive”

BBC North West has come under fire after it invited people to commemorate victims of the COVID-19 pandemic by tieing a red ribbon to a tree on World AIDS Day, they called the project, Tree Of Lives.

The Tweet, which was from the official BBC North West Twitter account wrote,

“Thousands of people across our region have lost loved ones to Covid-19. Join us at BBC NW to remember those that have died, by tying a red ribbon to your Christmas tree or a tree in your garden.”

However, the corporation has been accused of appropriating an established symbol of HIV/AIDs – the red ribbon.

bbc tree of lives
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The red ribbon has been in use since 1991 as a way of commemorating the millions who have died from AIDS since the 1980s.

One Twitter user, Scubamonkey, blasted the BBC saying, “Unbelievably inappropriate & wholly insensitive on #WorldAIDSDay2020. I’ve every sympathy for those who have lost loved ones to #Covid, but this appropriation of an established symbol of #HIV & #AIDS is an appalling insult to those people who have lost their lives to #HIV. It is quite frankly unbelievable how you insult and trample over one set of grieving families to show solidarity and support to another. It speaks volumes about where your priorities lie”

Another, Lkeels, wrote, “What an asinine choice to take the red ribbon for your own cause and ON WORLD AIDS DAY OF ALL DAYS!!! You should be ashamed of this.”

HIV advocate, Tom Knight added, “I’m sure you meant well but your ignorance is shocking, and to say you ‘thought it through’. This is so disrespectful.”

This is the second symbol appropriated from the LGBT+ community in 2020. The Pride rainbow flag which was designed by Gilbert Baker in 1979 became synonymous with the NHS and COVID-19 during the early months of the pandemic in the UK.

“We did consider the colour ribbon very carefully”

A response by the BBC Twitter feed responded to some of the criticism saying, “we did consider what colour ribbon to use very carefully- most colours are associated with a cause which is why this is tied differently.”

Tweet deleted

Since publication, the Tweet, which shared information on the Tree of Lives has been deleted.

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The BBC issued an appology via Twitter saying,

“We have deleted a tweet about our project to pay tribute to COVID victims. Given we have used red ribbons as part of it, we understand why some people found it insensitive on World AIDS Day. We’re sorry.

“We have been working closely with those who have lost loved ones to COVID and this initiative is to remember those who have died during the pandemic. “

Why is the red ribbon used to remember World AIDS Day

red ribbon is linked with AIDS not the bbc's Tree Of Lives
Photo by Anna Shvets / PEXELS

The Red Ribbon symbol has become the defining icon for the awareness, fundraising and determination to beat HIV and AIDS. It’s strong, vibrant red, a symbol that has become synonymous with every 1st December, was designed in 1991.

A decade after AIDS began its stranglehold, decimating communities, a coalition of 12 artists gathered to devise a plan to raise awareness for Visual Aids, a New York arts organisation which raises awareness of HIV.

The 12 people consisted of photographers, painters, filmmakers and costume designers. After a short collaboration they came up with the striking, but the simple idea of the red ribbon, inspired by the yellow ribbons tied on trees at the time, to denote support for US military fighting in the Gulf war.

The red ribbon logo became recognisable across the globe.

THEGAYUK.com reached out to the BBC for further comment.