Newswise — Award-winning documentary filmmaker, Courtney G. Smith, has teamed up with the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Inc. (AARDA) to raise awareness of autoimmune disease among African American women in 2014.

The partnership will launch in March during National Autoimmune Disease Awareness Month with the reissuing of Smith’s groundbreaking documentary, Beauty Does Lie: The Untold Stories of Autoimmune Diseases in a digital format. The film traces the lives of seven African American women living with various forms of autoimmune diseases including lupus, multiple sclerosis, Sjogren’s syndrome, pernicious anemia and myasthenia gravis.

The women chronicle the emotional and physical difficulties of living with chronic, potentially debilitating diseases while, at the same time, outwardly appearing to be healthy and well. Yet, in spite of the daily battles with their autoimmune diseases, these women are able to triumph and live fulfilling lives.

“The reissuing of this film and our new partnership with Courtney Smith comes at such an important time,” said Virginia T. Ladd, President, AARDA. “We know that certain ADs, such as lupus, scleroderma and sarcoidosis are more prevalent among African American women and two recent epidemiological studies show the incidence rate of lupus, in particular, is far greater among American American women and impacts them at a much earlier age than previously thought.”

The two studies from National Lupus Registries in Georgia and Michigan, conducted with a grant from and under the direction of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are from the largest and most far-reaching epidemiology study ever conducted on lupus. They found that African American women had very high rates of lupus, with an incidence rate in Georgia nearly three times higher than that for white women, with significantly high rates in the 30-39 age group.

In addition to the patient stories, Beauty Does Lie features interviews and commentary by leading Chicago-area medical experts, including rheumatologist Dr. Adrienne Burford Foggs of Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, IL and neurologist Dr. Tonya Fuller of Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, IL.

Smith, herself an autoimmune disease patient – she has myasthenia gravis – will donate a portion of all DVD sales to AARDA in 2014. AARDA will host screenings of Beauty Does Lie, followed by Q-and-A sessions with Smith and AARDA reps throughout 2014.

To order a copy of Beauty Does Lie, please visit

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About Autoimmune Disease and AARDA:

Autoimmune disease (AD) disproportionately affects women. Of the 50 million Americans living and coping with ADs, more than 75 percent are women. AD is one of the top 10 leading causes of death of women under the age of 65. It encompasses more than 100 diseases, including psoriasis, Graves’ disease, Sjogren’s syndrome, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and lupus. It is responsible for more than $100 billion in direct health care costs annually.

American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) is the nation's only non-profit organization dedicated to bringing a national focus to autoimmunity as a category of disease and a major women's health issue, and promoting a collaborative research effort in order to find better treatments and a cure for all autoimmune diseases. For more information, please visit

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