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Rare Disease Day aims to work towards accurate diagnosis, early intervention and research efforts for rare diseases in South Africa.


Johannesburg, South Africa – Last year, Rare Diseases South Africa launched their first official day. Making the 28th of February, Rare Disease day in South Africa. They did this to show the challenges faced by people suffering from rare diseases and to educate the public about rare diseases. The day was already global but SA didn’t take part. The very first Rare Disease Day took place on the 29th of February 2008 in Europe, where they selected a rare day to honour the diseases people face.

In South Africa, where medical infrastructure, clinical research and patient support is often a challenge, Rare Disease Day aims to raise awareness and grow the support for people with rare diseases. Rare diseases are often of genetic origin, and usually life-threatening or chronically debilitating disorders.

Rare Diseases South Africa (RDSA), in conjunction with their partner Sanofi Genzyme, will launch its annual Rare Disease Day.

“Approximately 1 in 7 people will live with a rare disease at some point in their life. Despite this, there is no cure for the majority of rare diseases and many remain undiagnosed. Rare Disease Day is an opportunity to improve knowledge among the general public about rare diseases while encouraging researchers and decision-makers to prioritise the needs of patients living with these conditions.” – Kelly Du Plessis, Founder and CEO of RDSA

RDSA was founded in 2013 as a support group for patients and parents. Since their founding, the organisation has blossomed into a fully fledged non-profit that helps guide families through early diagnosis and lifestyle adjustments.

“Imagine making multiple visits over many years to numerous doctors who are unable to diagnose you; and even when you are eventually diagnosed to find that there is no treatment for your condition, or your healthcare provider simply refuses to reimburse the medicine you need to save your life. Think about the environment around you – school, work, hospital and social services – that are usually not adapted to support your needs.”

“Consider as well that there are only a handful of people living with your disorder around the world and that there is little or no research about your condition. Recognise the financial burden and stress caused by having to travel hours or days to get to the only specialist or hospital that can assist you as well as the psychological impact and isolation you would feel. This is a reality that people living with rare diseases face every day,”

The organisation works to change the experiences mentioned above so that people with rare diseases don’t feel isolated.

The objective is to ensure that Rare Disease Day is imprinted in the minds of the local population and receives the same attention and focus like World Aids Day, Red Nose Day and Bandana Day. Rare Disease Day aims to create awareness and dialogue about the need for research, care and on-going support for rare disease patients, thereby ensuring that rare diseases are not marginalised and becomes a national priority.

“The general public and media at large are unaware of the fact that collectively there are more people affected by rare diseases than there are HIV/Aids and cancer patients in the world,” adds du Plessis.

Today is the day to learn more, here is how to get involved:

Today is the day! Let’s seize this opportunity to create as much awareness for #rarediseases as possible.

There are many ways you can make it count:
1. Wear your jeans and RDD2019 ribbon
2. Attend an event in your area
3. Post your face paint selfie on social media and hashtag #RDD2019#ShowYourRare
4. Share your story with others
5. Know the facts…and share them!

You can find out how to get more involved by checking out their Facebook page here. They also have a support group for patients currently undergoing treatment which you can join here.

Sources: GTG / Facebook
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About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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