Lupus foundation wants every Jamaican to ‘level up’
The Lupus Symposium is an annual affair organised by the Lupus Foundation of Jamaica, as one of several key events staged for Lupus Awareness Month, observed in October.
This year’s focus on reproductive health reflected on the fact that lupus, unlike most chronic or long-term illnesses, is generally considered a disease of the young, with 80 per cent of those diagnosed falling between the ages of 15 and 44 – considered the reproductive years – with a female predominance at a ratio of 9:1.
However, for many lupus patients, the reproductive desires may not be simple to accomplish, due to the possibility of complications that may endanger mother or foetus as well as the challenge of finding treatments that may safely be used during pregnancy.
Headlining the event as keynote speaker was internationally recognised expert in management of pregnancy with lupus, Dr Megan Clowse of Duke University.
Participants were told that the accuracy of the clinician and the honesty of the patient are the keys to improving pregnancy outcomes in patients living with lupus. Presenters stressed the importance of planning a pregnancy with a rheumatologist to ensure disease remission or control before pregnancy.
Dr Karen Carpenter, well-known psychologist and clinical sexologist, led a multidisciplinary panel on the subject ‘Lupus and Relationships’.
“In relationships, we have to consider not only the care of the lupus patients but also the care of the partner in maintaining a healthy romantic, sexual connection between them,” Dr Carpenter said.
The discussion was expanded to tackle other matters affecting the reproductive health and sexuality of women and men living with lupus, dispelling untruths and reaffirming that contraceptives are safe for lupus patients, and that the risk of HPV and cervical cancer in patients are higher.
Dr Desiree Tulloch-Reid, consultant rheumatologist and lupus specialist, who currently serves as president of the 38-year-old charity, commented on the emphasis chosen this year and goals of the conference.
“The staging of this annual symposium was a key part of fulfilling our mandate to improve the outcomes and quality of life for those living with lupus. This symposium continues to bring together health professionals, patients, families and all stakeholders in a shared learning environment,” Dr Tulloch-Reid said.
“We are committed not only to strengthen the knowledge and capacity of health professionals to offer the best care to persons with lupus, but also to make sure that the voice of the patient is heard and that their lives and goals are kept at the centre of the conversation,” she added.
This year’s symposium was held with the support of sponsors, the National Health Fund, Wisynco Group Ltd, IPCA Laboratories, COCREATE Caribbean Ltd, and Realizm Studios, among others. It was was free to the public, and saw medical professionals, patients, relatives, caregivers and students in attendance and joining live on the foundation’s Facebook and YouTube pages.
The event was one of a series of activities staged by the organisation in observation of Lupus Awareness Month under the theme ‘Level Up! This is Lupus’. ‘Level Up’ is a call to every Jamaican `to increase their awareness and understanding of both the illness and the persons affected and to show support in a tangible way.