Those who attended the event held to mark ‘World Multiple Sclerosis Day' here on Wednesday were a symbol of hope and courage to persons who suffer from the condition.

Secretary of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of India's Chennai chapter Ann Gonsalves called for raising awareness and educating people about the disease, its causes and symptoms. “The MSSI has already been urging inclusion of MS patients in the Disabilities Act of 1995,” she said.

Multiple Sclerosis, a disease of the brain and spinal cord, affects the central nervous system and immunity gives way. The damage to the nervous system is permanent as the disease progresses as there is no cure even with medicines.

Tara Rao, who is the India representative of People Living with MS, MS International Federation, London, said issues such as sensitising people, addressing the employability of such persons and rehabilitation must addressed.

Tennis player Vijay Amritraj, who participated in the event organised by the MSSI, Chennai chapter and Apollo Hospitals, urged all stakeholders to be ambassadors who spread awareness for prevention of the disease.

Speakers such as neurologist G. Arjundas and neurosurgeon Prithika Chary called for lobbying with the government to reduce the excise duty on the medicines required to treat the condition and to create a database to find out the employability of persons with MS.

Dr. Arjundas recalled that a powerful lobby had helped bring down the price of medicine and raise awareness about the ailment which could be controlled if treated early.

Bess Simkin, wife of American Consul General Andrew T. Simkin, recalled her experiences as a nurse, with persons with the debilitating condition. She said the caregivers of the patients needed strength to carry on even when the struggle became difficult.

Neurologist Arul Selvam said research in improved medicines was an ongoing process.

It was only recently that oral drugs were introduced. But the drugs are unaffordable, he said.

Several caregivers and patients shared their experiences. The theme for this year was ‘Employment and MS'. Multiple Sclerosis Day is being observed world over on May 27, since 2007.