The color red, found on the red ribbon, serves as a global symbol of HIV/AIDS. That symbol inspired the foundation of red dress parties across the country beginning in Portland, Oregon and making its way to Sacramento in 2012 to increase awareness, challenge stereotypes, and raise funds to support LGBTQ community health programs. The required wearing of a red dress at these events demonstrated solidarity with those living with HIV/AIDS and challenged the stereotypes that have led to a variety of LGBTQ health disparities. Our Sacramento event has evolved to embrace the diversity of gender expressions. Guests are encouraged to challenge stereotypes by wearing a red dress or dressing in all red, whichever is comfortable for them, to symbolize solidarity with those living with HIV/AIDS and raise awareness of the vast health disparities experienced by LGBTQ people.
Young gay and bisexual men account for 72 percent of new HIV infections. One in five African American transgender women is HIV-positive. Every month 1000 youth ages 13 to 24 are infected and sixty percent of them do not know they have acquired the virus. A hugely disproportionate number of these new infections are among homeless and marginalized LGBT youth who feel forced into situations where they are at grave risk of infection. Additionally, 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. Twenty percent of older LGBT adults report they have no one to call for support, a rate 10 times higher than their heterosexual peers. Thirty-three percent of lesbian couples and 20 percent of gay male couples without high school diplomas live in poverty compared to 18 percent of different sex couples. Transgender people are much more likely to be bullied, attempt suicide, experience sexual violence, and face employment, housing, and healthcare discrimination than the LGB parts of the population or their non-LGBT peers.