Colombia was the place in November 2019 where MS organisations from across Latin America joined hands and came together to strengthen regional collaboration.

The fifth regional meeting for the MS movement in Latin America saw representatives from 16 MS organisations across 14 different countries gather together in Medellin, Colombia. Delegates were hosted by the Fight against Multiple Sclerosis (ALEM) and FUNDEM on behalf of the Latin American MS organizations Network (LATEM).

The slogan ‘stronger together’ captured the vision behind the region-wide initiative. The conference was an opportunity to come together and find ways to build strong regional collaboration for people affected by MS and MS organisations across Latin America.

The opening session brought MS organisations and stakeholders from the medical and scientific community together. There was a panel discussion on improving access to safe and effective treatment throughout the region. The debate was moderated by Dr. Fernando Hamuy, president of the Latin American Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (LACTRIMS).

Participants learnt about FUCACEM, the MS Central American and Caribbean Foundation. FUCACEM’s fights for equal access to treatment and health services for people with MS in Central America and the Caribbean. The update gave working examples of how neighbouring countries in the region are working together for people affected by MS.

There were various opportunities for MS organisations to receive training on organisational development. Experts from the non-profit sector delivered workshops on fundraising, advocacy and innovation. Eva Maria Ruiz de Castilla from the Latin America Patients Academy presented on the evolution and power of patient health movements. These informative and inspirational talks sparked new conversations around regional collaboration and impact.

Discussion on regional strategy and goals resumed on the final day of the conference. Delegates split into three workgroups, focusing on communication, access and legislation to plan LATEM’s objectives and short-term goals.

Delegates noted the value of cross-cultural exchange.

“Attending LATEM’s annual meeting was a very enriching experience that exceeded my expectations. I learnt that other MS associations experience the same struggles we face in Honduras. Discovering ways that other MS associations manage their work helped me find new strategies to face the barriers presented to us. LATEM strengthens the work of our associations and helps us to better look after people with MS.”

Andrea Aguilar, Vicepresident of the Honduras MS Association (ASOHEM)

“The 5th LATEM-Medellin meeting helped us learn from different organizational experiences. The exchange of this knowledge generates new tools to apply within each of our countries. It is a source of useful training and ideas as well as a way to strengthen international ties.”

Roberto Rodríguez, President of the Renacer Republica Dominicana

“It was a very enriching encounter both as a person with MS and as a representative from an MS association. The interaction with the rest of the participants, exchange of experiences, learning through professionals of different subjects, has great value and motivates me to continue.”

Monica Basilo, a Communications lead at Esclerosis Múltiple Uruguay

LATEM will continue to be led by the four organisations elected back in 2018: ASOGEM, Guatemala; APEMED, Paraguay; ALEM, Colombia and ABEM, Brazil.

This event was supported by the MS International Federation.