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"The Lupus Foundation of Dominica strongly believes that awareness and a positive attitude can save lives", said Director of the Lupus Foundation, Glorine Thomas, at the launching ceremony on February 5, 2015. "It is our short term goals to bring in lupus-specialized doctors to provide medical care to the warriors every couple of months; to have workshops and trainings for local doctors and nurses to identify and treat lupus victims; awareness campaigns to aid persons in identifying the disease at an early stage and health, wellness and stress workshops for the victims. Our long term goal is to fund the education of our very own rheumatologist,"

Representing the Ministry of Health, Dr Ruby Blanc stated that "The ministry places great emphasis on the management of non-communicable diseases and although lupus is not as well known or well recognized as sickness like hypertension and diabetes, it is a chronic non-communicable disease and like all the other NCDs there are two things that are important in the fight and management of these conditions.

"That is knowledge about the condition, knowledge about the signs and symptoms, knowledge about the management and as importantly support; support from friends, family, relatives, medical personnel and those I think are the two major functions that the foundation needs to attempt to provide."

Meanwhile, one of the directors of the Lupus Foundation, Joanne Commodore noted that she hopes that "this will change the tide and bring about massive awareness of an often overlooked and underestimated disease."

Commodore then added that chronic illnesses can be so overwhelming because of the long lasting impact that one should always keep abreast in terms of the current research.

"A lot of people do not understand the ravage to the persons who suffer from it and to their families and friends. Chronic illnesses can be so devastating because of their long lasting and far reaching consequences, the constant trips to doctors and hospitals, the constant need to be vigilant and always having to keep abreast of what is going on in terms of new research and that never ending fear that your situation may suddenly deteriorate," said Commodore.

She added: "This is why awareness must be built and why education and information sharing is key. Our aim is to ensure that everyone from every nurse and doctor, to every high school child, or teacher knows what lupus is and knows how to identify the signs and symptoms and can seek early treatment that could possibly save lives.

"Our aim is to ensure that the persons living with lupus get the legal, social and financial support that they require; we hope that our plea will be heeded to have specialists brought in frequently so that persons will not have to add the cost of travel to the cost of treatment; we hope that our plea will be heeded to have nurses and doctors adequately educated on lupus and other auto immune diseases and non-communicable diseases."

The Foundation was formed by a group of four persons who are determined to raise awareness of the deadly disease lupus.

"We have noticed an increase in the number of women in Dominica, being diagnosed with lupus. Majority of these diagnoses end in loss of life. Many people here have never heard of lupus, including some health care providers. Therefore it is our duty to educate the public, support the victims and their families and to motivate those who suffer the pain!" the foundation said on its website.

The foundation describes lupus as a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body (skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body). Chronic means that the signs and symptoms tend to last longer than six weeks and often for many years.

In lupus, something goes wrong with your immune system, which is the part of the body that fights off viruses, bacteria, and germs ("foreign invaders," like the flu). Normally our immune system produces proteins called antibodies that protect the body from these invaders. Autoimmune means your immune system cannot tell the difference between these foreign invaders and your body's healthy tissues ("auto" means "self") and creates autoantibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissue. These autoantibodies cause inflammation, pain, and damage in various parts of the body.

Lupus is also a disease of flares (the symptoms worsen and you feel ill) and remissions (the symptoms improve and you feel better).

These are some additional facts about lupus that you should know:

-Lupus is not contagious, not even through sexual contact. You cannot "catch" lupus from someone or "give" lupus to someone.

-Lupus is not like or related to cancer. Cancer is a condition of malignant, abnormal tissues that grow rapidly and spread into surrounding tissues. Lupus is an autoimmune disease, as described above.

-Lupus is not like or related to HIV (Human Immune Deficiency Virus) or AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). In HIV or AIDS the immune system is underactive; in lupus, the immune system is overactive.

-Lupus can range from mild to life-threatening and should always be treated by a doctor. With good medical care, most people with lupus can lead a full life.

-Our research estimates that at least 1.5 million Americans have lupus. The actual number may be higher; however, there have been no large-scale studies to show the actual number of people in the U.S. living with lupus.

-More than 16,000 new cases of lupus are reported annually across the country (USA).

-t is believed that 5 million people throughout the world have a form of lupus.

-Lupus strikes mostly women of childbearing age (15-44). However, men, children, and teenagers develop lupus, too. Most people will develop lupus between the ages of 15-44.

-Women of colour are two to three times more likely to develop lupus than Caucasians.

-People of all races and ethnic groups can develop lupus.