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Congressman Hank Johnson

Representing the 4th District of Georgia

Congressman Johnson introduces bipartisan bill to establish National Vitiligo Awareness Day

March 21, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04), has introduced H.Res. 213 to designate Oct. 17th as “National Vitiligo Awareness Day.” 

This bipartisan bill honors the courageous children and adults who while living with this condition, often overcome many different forms of harassment and their own personal issues to fight on and contribute to our society.

Vitiligo is a long-term, chronic medical condition that results in loss of pigmentation in patches on the skin, hair, eyes, and inside of the mouth. In the United States, around two to five million individuals are affected by this chronic medical condition. Approximately half of the cases were diagnosed during childhood thus requiring lifetime treatment.

The American Academy of Dermatology refers to vitiligo as a life-altering disorder that can result in low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. This is especially prevalent when children are diagnosed. Children with vitiligo are have been found to be disproportionately bullied. They have a harder time making friends and are more likely to perform poorly at school.

“With suicide rates amongst bullied children found to be two to nine times higher for children living with this condition, a vitiligo diagnosis can have life-threatening consequences,” said Rep. Johnson. “By supporting this resolution, we will name October 17th as National Vitiligo Awareness Day. This resolution will show our support for the millions of men, women, and children suffering from Vitiligo and highlight the importance of providing comprehensive medical and mental health support to Americans with chronic conditions.”

This bipartisan bill has gained the support of leaders within the Vitiligo community.  

Stella Pavlides, Founder & President of the American Vitiligo Research Foundation, said: “I have had vitiligo for nearly 50 years of my life, and spent most of it hiding my skin. Mama Demetra, even though you are gone from this world, I remember you telling me to never give up and I thank you for your love and teaching me to be tenacious. Thank you Congressman Hank Johnson for seeing the need to have this bill written on behalf of the millions of vitiligo sufferers worldwide. The American Vitiligo Research Foundation (AVRF) has been working on behalf of vitiligo since 1995 and finally someone has heard our plea and has responded. Children with Vitiligo have suffered unnecessary suicide, bullying and rejection from an uneducated public. Now, because of this bill, many people will learn about vitiligo. I would like to thank all the members of Congress (both parties) for helping us raise much needed awareness by  joining this bill about a disease that does not discriminate. The AVRF truly ‘walks by faith and not by sight.’”

Natasha Pierre McCarthy, CEO of Vitiligo Bond, said: “I have had vitiligo for 15 years. When I got vitiligo, I did not know what it was as it started as a tiny dot on my right wrist. After 9/11 and birth of my first child my vitiligo grew all over my hands. People would see my hands and shame me with their eyes. I too started to feel ashamed of my hands, but I knew deep down there was nothing to be ashamed of because these were hard working hands. I tried to camouflage my condition but it felt unnatural and my skin felt like it was clogged with the makeup. It was when an extended family member made a derogatory comment to me about vitiligo and my ethnicity (about being part African and Indian) that I knew I had to do something about it. Vitiligo in itself is a quiet disease that grows and because of the white patches on the skin it can be stunning to see. However, Vitiligo does not only attack the skin, it attacks the human spirit. Vitiligo Bond Inc. was created November 2010 with a mission of awareness, empowerment and support for people living with Vitiligo. I thank God for my mother who has been my biggest support system and VBI is an extension of her love manifested through me. Rep. Johnson’s bill is another crucial step.

H.Res. 213 saves lives and will help restore Vitiligo sufferers’ dignity, so they may have a better quality of life. It is a beacon of light, hope, and recognition for the millions of people who hide and suffer in silence because they think they are broken and live in bondage because of their skin condition. With this bill, we address the underlying causes related to vitiligo and do more to educate the public and ease the social stigma on those who suffer from the condition.”

Cosponsors: Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Eleanor Holmes Norton ( D-DC), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and David Scott (D-GA).