WRIST WITH A MESSAGE: The red wristband has been used to raise awareness about everything from AIDS to heart disease. PICTURE: Valerie Loiseleux (iStockphoto.com)

They appear on the wrists of everyone supporting causes from bringing about an end to poverty to tackling diseases such as cancer to, in the US at least, drawing attention to a soldier killed or missing in action.

The history of wearing something on your wrist to draw attention to the issue goes back a long way - they were used in the US during the Vietnam War to draw attention to missing soldiers and prisoners-of-war.

But the recent trend for the rubbery wristbands - known as “awareness bracelets” - got a big boost in 2004 when star cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong used a yellow silicone wristband - known as the Livestrong wristband - to help raise funds for his Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Other groups which have since employed the bands range from the Make Poverty History campaign (white) - which has recruited the likes of U2 lead singer and anti-poverty campaigner Bono to wear one - to the Save Darfur campaign (green) and a host of medical-related campaigns including that aimed at tackling breast cancer (pink).

As to their effectiveness in raising awareness of the issue they’re supporting? While that remains a matter of debate, there is no doubt given the numbers being sold - and they range well into the millions for some causes - that the idea of wearing a wristband to support a cause will be around for some time yet.

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