Imagine a day, just one, where an act as simple as sitting down, walking, driving or eating with a knife and fork becomes near impossible. “Actions taken for granted by most, infinitely precious to the estimated four million South Africans who suffer from an autoimmune (AI) disease,” says Dr Marietjie Du Plooy, a rheumatologist at the Wits Donald Gordon Hospital based in Johannesburg. Consisting of more than 80 conditions, AI diseases develop when the body’s immune system mistakes healthy cells for harmful, foreign ones and subsequently attacks them [1A]. Affecting almost any type of tissue, structure, function or system of the body, most AI diseases are considered a medical mystery with no definitive cause, nor cure [1B]. “Globally and locally, an increasing focus is being placed on this category of diseases and significant strides have been made in the development of therapeutic options available to AI disease patients. The introduction of correct treatment early on in the course of arthritis or other autoimmune diseases has made it possible for more and more patients to live normal, healthy and active lives. These include traditional drugs, as well as a new class of drug called biologics,” says Du Plooy. This World Arthritis Day, all South Africans are challenged to ‘Strike a Pose’ in the shoes of AI disease patients as part of the Join the Fight – Strike a Pose campaign – an AbbVie Pharmaceuticals initiative. Dedicated to those who are rendered near immobile by their condition, the activation encourages the public to take a moment, to pause, to empathise, to imagine a life where movement is not regarded as a given, but a treasured gift. “The campaign is aimed at creating much needed awareness around the prevalence, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of AI diseases with a particular focus on Rheumatoid Arthritis, Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, Spondyloarthritis and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. To demonstrate the crippling effect that these conditions can have on a patient’s mobility, a nationwide series of statues will be placed in busy locations. South Africans can show their support either by finding a statue, taking a selfie and uploading it to the Join the Fight – Strike a Pose Facebook page or SMSing 38584 to donate R10 to The Arthritis Foundation of South Africa. We are grateful to companies, such as AbbVie, who support and sponsor much needed campaigns such as these. All donations made to the Arthritis Foundation will go towards further disease awareness,” says Mike Boddy, CEO of The Arthritis Foundation of South Africa. According to Du Plooy, the Join the Fight – Strike a Pose campaign represents a significant step in addressing an acute lack of awareness of AI diseases amongst the general public. “The overwhelming majority of South Africans have never heard of this disease category, let alone the more than 80 conditions it consists of, their symptoms or available therapeutic options. Many also assume that autoimmune diseases are for the elderly and do not know that autoimmune diseases affect infants too, sometimes children younger than one year’s old are diagnosed with arthritis. This general lack of awareness represents a significant obstacle to the early diagnosis and treatment of AI diseases, both of which are absolutely imperative to the successful management of these conditions. Disease awareness for AI diseases, is something very close to my heart, she concludes.” The Join the Fight – Strike a Pose campaign will launch on World Arthritis Day (12 October) at Montecasino, Johannesburg and will run through nationwide until to 18 October. For more information, like and keep posted to the Join the Fight – Strike a Pose Facebook page.