Kingston, Jamaica October 25, 2020. Since the Covid-19 pandemic several issues relating to lupus have been of urgent concern to patients and medical personnel with implications for the society at large. Jamaica has one of the highest rates worldwide of this potentially life-threatening autoimmune disease. Lupus Foundation of Jamaica, a local member-based group, have brought together local and international experts to ensure that these issues stay on the radar and are fully addressed at a free virtual Lupus Symposium to be held on Sunday Nov 1, 2020 from 10 am to 2:30 pm.
Among these issues has been widespread concern that the disease itself, or even its treatments which suppress immune function, may place lupus patients in a vulnerable group for the potentially deadly coronavirus. In contrast, drugs used in treating lupus, such as steroids and hydroxychloroquine have been utilised widely in treatment of Covid-19, triggering shortages of the drugs in recent months for many patients. Safety issues surrounding use of these drugs have also been circulating in the news media.
Perhaps predictably, the daily challenges faced by patients in coping with this chronic condition, also seem to be compounded during the Covid-19 Pandemic. The Foundation recently surveyed its members to better understand its impact on various areas from work or school disruption, financial issues, mental health and relationships to health care access and will also be having these addressed during the Symposium.
Dr Desiree Tulloch-Reid, Consultant Rheumatologist specialising in Lupus and President of the Foundation spoke about the objectives: “We felt it was important that we address these complex issues surrounding lupus in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic as comprehensively as possible, both at the scientific and medical level as well as the more practical areas, always with the patient at the centre. We hope the information gained here will help us all look toward a positive future for lupus patients in Jamaica and worldwide.”
This year’s Lupus Symposium, is to be streamed live on two social media platforms, and will be accessible to the public free of cost, thanks to sponsorship by the National Health Fund and other private entities. Under the theme Back to the Future: Embracing New Normals in Lupus Management, Research and Life,the event will feature local and international speakers covering topics such as Lupus and Covid-19 Pandemicas well as latest developments in Precision Medicineand Patient-Centred Research. A diverse panel of experts will also share on The Way Forward: Life with Lupus During and After Covid19and will address topical matters of health care access, work safety and opportunities and mental and social health for persons with lupus. A variety of special features such as short films, interactive question and answer and even music will further contribute to maximal participant engagement.
Dr Roberto Caricchio, chief of Rheumatology at Temple University and Head of the Temple Lupus Programme, has been at the forefront of the international effort to understand the complexities of the immune system’s behavior in lupus as well as in Covid-19 infection. He was pleased to support the Symposium, in which his former mentee Jamaican Rheumatologist Dr Asana Anderson is also participating. Of his involvement in the effort he said “I feel empowered and humbled at the same time; empowered by the unprecedented world collective effort of physicians and scientists to end the COVID-19 pandemic, and humbled by the privilege I have to be part of it.”
Prof David Isenberg, of University College London, who will be speaking on Precision Medicine in Lupus, is considered one of the doyens of lupus treatment and research internationally and author of a publication on the same topic this year in the highly-acclaimed medical journal the Lancet. He is also no stranger to Jamaica and the work being done here by local specialists. "I'm truly sad not being able travel, from a rather locked down UK to Jamaica, but delighted to be taking part in this exciting program. I'm keen to share with you some of the intruiging developments in the treatment of SLE as we move from an era of therapeutic 'serendipity to (immunologic) sense".
Jamaican specialists Dr Taneisha McGhie and Dr Raquel Lowe-Jones, will also be in the line-up, presenting their international work in the field, supported by two former LFJ presidents, Rheumatologists Dr Karel De Ceulaer and Dr Stacy Davis.
Lupus Foundation of Jamaica, established in 1984, is a member-based, volunteer-run, charitable organisation dedicated to improving the lives and outcomes of Jamaicans affected by lupus through information, support, advocacy and research. The Foundation has approximately 169 active members, who were recently surveyed in an effort to better understand their needs during the Pandemic and how to address them.
The annual Lupus Symposium has been a flagship event for the LFJ for over 20 years, and follows a month-long public awareness campaign in October, Lupus Awareness Month. The event brings together experts in the field to present the cutting edge in Lupus treatment and research as well as address practical issues affecting those living with lupus. This event provides both Continuing Medical Education for a range of health professionals as well as information for patients and the public in a shared learning environment. Although necessitated by the circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic, the switch to a virtual format has attracted record attendance across Jamaica, as well as regionally and internationally through live streaming on multiple platforms and convenient online registration.
The public is invited to visit the Foundation’s website, lupusFoundationJamaica.org or social media pages to register for the event, or for more information, to join, volunteer or donate.
For more information on this topic, you may contact Desiree Tulloch-Reid, 8765744954 or email email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org.
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