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Bike rally across key cities to mark Multiple Sclerosis Day in India

February 2, 2019

The world marks Mutiple Sclerosis Day in May, but here in India, it is observed on the first Sunday in the month of February as India MS -Multiple Sclerosis Day.

That's because extreme heat is difficult for patients to bear and given the intense temperature across India in May, it was decided to observe it earlier. This is just one of the facts about MS that is little known to the general public.

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the brain and spinal cord and affects the central nervous system. This means the nerves that carry signals from the brain to the rest of the body. The immune system slowly attacks the protective covering around the nerve cells and damages them eventually. The damage weakens the communication system of the body and the brain is no longer able to transmit instructions to other parts of the body.

As it is an invisible disability, affected people face discrimination due to lack of awareness. MS affects the life of the patient's family as well, which is why the day in India is dedicated not just to patients but also caregivers.

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of India (MSSI) is a pan India organization working to support patients and build greater awareness.

We started the MSSI more than 30 years ago with the aim of providing support and guidance to other MS patients in India. Over the years, hundreds of people have associated with MSSI. Social stigma and fear of being rejected remains the main concern for patients. - Sheela Chitnis, Member MSSI

Chitnis says there are also cases where patients are not even aware tehy have MS. "They suffer all their lives. We have been working to create awareness to ensure that information is made available to those in need", she adds.

This year the MSSI has planned bike rallies in various cities, including Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Pune. Called Ride for MS, the events are being organized in collaboration with other local organizations.

In cities such as Indore and Kolkata, awareness talks and a walk will be held later in February. Better understanding and sensitization in our society about MS can help make the lives of people affected by it less challenging.

Ann Gonsalvez who heads the Chennai chapter of MSSI feels that the acceptance and awareness about MS is lacking in our society.

"It is important to understand that MS is a rare disease and results in invisible disabilities. In our country there is a huge shortage of information and many people don't even know about MS."

This means patients find it hard to get timely help and assistance, making their lives even more challenging.

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