LONDON: Celebrities, Premier League footballers, socialites and supporters from across the banking and medical fields attended a gala in the British capital to raise funds as part of a global initiative to tackle autoimmune diseases.
The lavish event, which raised a significant amount of funds according to organizers, was held to mark the launch of the UK-based Autoimmune Support Awareness Foundation — a charity dedicated to raising awareness and tackling autoimmune diseases.
The charity, which was set up late last year, aims to raise £2 million ($2.4 million) in the next 12 months toward a global fund to allow for research and targeted treatments and has already partnered with a number of countries, including Arab and Gulf nations.
“If we want to take this charity, and this ethos, and this help into the Middle East, we need serious funding to be able to do the research, and we will then have to do the research targeting that population,” Asal Shirazi, who set up the foundation, told Arab News.
“But first of all comes awareness. Unless there is awareness, nobody is going to know why they’re funding, what’s the research, what is autoimmune,” said the mother of five, who has been living with a life-limiting condition for more than a decade.
ASA Foundation Trustee Afshin Mosahebi said: “Autoimmune Disease is all around us. It’s very common in the Middle East — diabetes, obesity, thyroid disease, or even cancer, all those things can increase the risk of autoimmune disease.”
Describing autoimmune as the body attacking itself, he said often it is not visible and there is a long delay before a diagnosis and medical professionals, which includes himself, are not not aware of it all the time.
“Our job as a foundation is to promote early awareness, reduce the complications, reduce the issues we’re going to have much later in our life,” calling on the public to support increasing awareness among their societies, he said.
British TV personality, Lizzie Cundy, urged people to educate themselves, know their own body, and look at their lifestyle, particularly young people, to avoid autoimmune problems later in life.
“So many people are suffering and they don’t actually know about it or what to do ... and I have many friends that suffer (and) no one knows what’s wrong with them, and it really does affect your quality of life and it’s so important,” she said. “A simple blood test can change your life.”