March designated as 'National Autoimmune Diseases Awareness Month'

On the evening of March 4, 2010, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution designating March as "National Autoimmune Diseases Awareness Month" and supporting efforts to increase awareness of autoimmune diseases and increase funding for autoimmune disease research. The Senate resolution (S.RES.372) was introduced by Michigan Senator Carl Levin on December 8, 2009. "This is a day of celebration for autoimmune disease patients around the country," according to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) President and Executive Director Virginia T. Ladd. "Today, fewer than 13% of Americans can name, unaided, an autoimmune diseases. This is staggering when one considers that there are 100+ known autoimmune diseases, all of which are chronic, many life threatening, and that as a category, autoimmune diseases are one of the top 10 killers of women under the age of 65. With the designation of March as 'National Autoimmune Diseases Awareness Month,' we begin to focus national attention on this issue, and it's long overdue," says Ladd.

The resolution comes on the heels of the first ever "Autoimmune Diseases Summit: The Global State of Autoimmunity Today" which took place in Washington D.C. on March 3. Attendance was diverse including top level researchers from the National Institutes of Health, and autoimmune patient groups, national media outlets, representatives from biotech and pharmaceutical companies, as well as patients. The day-long event provided the most current information on research, the therapeutic pipeline for autoimmune diseases, the history of autoimmunity research and development, and the dissemination of health information by the national media. Keynoting the event was actress Melissa Joan Hart, of "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" and "Clarissa Explains it All" fame. "The purpose of the summit meeting was to bring a national focus to autoimmune diseases; and having it culminate with the designation of 'National Autoimmune Diseases Awareness Month' will truly help us to accomplish that goal with the support of the United States Senate behind us," says Ladd.

So what does AARDA want Americans to be aware of during "National Autoimmune Diseases Awareness Month"?

1. Be aware that autoimmune diseases target women; 75% of patients are women.
2. Know that autoimmune diseases tend to cluster in families. If your mother had rheumatoid arthritis and your sister had Crohn's disease, you could be at higher risk than usual.
3. Autoimmune diseases are on the rise in the U.S. and around the world, celiac disease has tripled in the past 10 years in Minnesota alone.
4. Because of lack of early diagnosis and onset of treatment, healthcare costs for autoimmune diseases are overwhelming for patients and the healthcare system.
5. Everyone should know the facts about autoimmune disease.

For more information on autoimmune diseases and to learn more about what you need to know about autoimmune diseases, visit the AARDA Website at http://www.aarda.org.

To view the archived Web cast of the "Autoimmune Diseases Summit: The Global State of Autoimmunity, find the link on the homepage of the AARDA Website at http://www.aarda.org .

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