25 April 2022
IFPA Ambassador Hellen Wangui Gathere about life with psoriatic disease
Hellen Wangui Gathere is an IFPA Ambassador from Nairobi, Kenya, working for people with psoriatic disease and spreading awareness about the condition. Her journey with psoriatic disease started with dandruff and flares on her scalp. It gradually spread to other parts of her body. Hellen visited five different doctors by the age of 17. None could help her. Finally, she met a dermatologist who diagnosed her with psoriasis.
Hellen says that the biggest struggle for her in her journey with psoriasis has been misconceptions and stigmatization caused by them. People believe that psoriasis is contagious and that by being close to someone with the condition, they might contract it. Hellen wishes that more people were aware of the condition and especially that it is not contagious in any way. More understanding would lift the burden for people living with the condition.
Ever optimistic, however, Hellen explains that people are actually becoming more and more aware of what psoriasis is, what the symptoms are, and the fact that it is not contagious.
In Kenya, lack of access to medication and treatment is a huge issue for people living with psoriatic disease. Since most of the medication is very expensive, a lot of people who would hugely benefit from it, cannot afford it. Hellen says that many people choose not to treat their condition since it never goes away and treating the symptoms is expensive. According to her, that this choice is not acceptable. There must be quality medication accessible for everyone living with psoriatic disease, regardless if they´re rich or poor.
For Hellen personally, choosing to accept that psoriasis is chronic and has no cure and that all she can do is manage the symptoms, has helped to cope with the condition. She also says that having a strong support system of friends and family who understand what psoriasis is and stand with her during the difficult times has helped tremendously. Hellen has equally appreciated talking to other people who live with psoriatic disease. It always helps to know that you´re not alone, she explains.
Hellen wants to tell everyone living with psoriatic disease that there is hope. “It gets better,” she says. “You can still achieve so much and live to your full potential, despite the condition. You just have to work on accepting and loving yourself and everything else will follow.”