The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association is dedicated to the eradication of autoimmune diseases and the alleviation of suffering and the socioeconomic impact of autoimmunity through fostering and facilitating collaboration in the areas of education, public awareness, research, and patient services in an effective, ethical, and efficient manner.

AARDA is the only national nonprofit health agency dedicated to bringing a comprehensive focus to autoimmunity, the major cause of over 100 serious chronic diseases. Approximately 50 million Americans — or one in five people — suffer from autoimmune diseases. Women are more likely than men to be affected; some estimates say 75% of those affected are women. Still, autoimmunity is rarely discussed as a women’s health issue.

An autoimmune disease develops when a person’s immune system mistakenly identifies healthy cells as foreign cells and attacks them. There are over 100 known autoimmune diseases. Most of these are known by their singular names, but the public is generally unaware of their autoimmune nature. This makes it difficult to raise awareness of autoimmune diseases as a whole.

Many people also confuse the term autoimmune with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), or they think these diseases are a form of cancer.

The lack of knowledge and awareness surrounding autoimmunity result in untold suffering for people affected by these diseases. Misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis can result in damage to vital organs. A collaborative approach to research, funding, and early detection is essential to finding eventual cures and preventative measures for all autoimmune diseases. To encourage such collaboration, there needs to be a national focus on autoimmunity as the common factor in all autoimmune diseases.

Some of more well-known autoimmune diseases are lupus, type 1 diabetes, scleroderma, celiac, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, autoimmune hepatitis, rheumatoid arthritis, Graves’ disease, myasthenia gravis, myositis, antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), Sjogren’s syndrome, uveitis, vasculitis, relapsing polychondritis, and demyelinating neuropathies.