In 1991 a group of 12 artists gathered in a shared gallery space in New York’s East Village and brainstormed what was to become a globally recognised symbol of support: the red ribbon.

Worn to signify solidarity with people living with HIV, it was distributed among arts communities and theatres and was the first ribbon symbol of its kind (it inspired the pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness).

With its message still pertinent in 2014, the Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) has conceived an original and contemporary way to integrate the red ribbon into Melbourne’s own communities.

In order to create public awareness as part of Worlds AIDS Day on December 1, VAC will be providing inner-city cafes with free takeaway coffee cups for a week, complete with red ribbons printed on their sides and details of how to donate.

And while the original red ribbon will still be distributed, the deployment of bespoke coffee cups to our local haunts means the message can segue seamlessly into our daily routines. Participating cafes so far include Proud Mary, Cafe 417, Cafe Eurasia and Perkup Expresso Bar on Collins Street, Adriano Zumbo Patisserie, Aini and Lawson Grove Shop in South Yarra and Red Robyn in Camberwell.

“We felt that this initiative was perfect for Melburnians as coffee consumption is so important to our city,” explains VAC event coordinator Ilan Werbeloff.

“Part of the goal of World AIDS Day is to spark conversations about HIV, and we felt that seeing your favourite cafe supporting World AIDS Day was a great conversation starter, not just between individuals, but also between cafes and their customers.”

“By using coffee cups to promote our cause, we were able to bring our HIV prevention directly to our target audience in a way that we feel is (literally) palatable,” he says.

The coffee cup project forms part of VAC’s World AIDS Day Wrap it in RED campaign. Visit to see participating cafes and find out what else is happening in Melbourne or to donate.