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When will this Day be celebrated? February 17th of each calendar year.

What is National GVHD Day? In order to cure their blood disease, some people require a bone marrow transplant (BMT). A BMT is a toxic, dangerous procedure that often results in cure. Unfortunately, that cure can be complicated by Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD).

GVHD is a rare disease overall, but common after BMT. In contrast to solid organ transplants that can be complicated by rejection of the donated organ, after BMT donor cells (the Graft) that a person (the Host) has received attack the host’s organs and tissues. GVHD is an immune reaction of the donor against the host that ranges in severity from quite mild to completely debilitating. Thus, people can face their own mortality, overcome their initial illness, suffer through a bone marrow transplant, and still develop another chronic condition even though they might be cured of their original disease. This makes GVHD difficult for others to understand, which lends itself to feelings of isolation, fear, and anxiety.

The goal of the GVHD Alliance is to raise awareness of the condition, connect patients, caregivers, and the medical community to resources to help better understand, manage, and live well with GVHD. The GVHD Alliance would like to recognize February 17th of each year as GVHD Day to elevate voices in support of people impacted by GVHD, connect those impacted, and provide hope.

The GVHD Alliance member organizations include: American Society for Transplantation and Cellular Therapy (ASTCT), Be The Match, Blood & Marrow Transplant Information Network (BMT InfoNet), Meredith A. Cowden Foundation, and the National Bone Marrow Transplant Link (nbmtLINK).

Why is this day being created? Until now, significant barriers have prevented GVHD patients and caregivers from finding valuable resources, support tools, and information about GVHD before, during, and after a hematopoietic stem cell transplant in a single place. By connecting the GVHD and BMT community, we aim to extend the reach of educational initiatives, allowing individuals to recognize GVHD symptoms earlier so they can discuss options and support with their healthcare provider. Since GVHD can be such an isolating and debilitating condition, raising awareness is a way to empower and connect the stem cell transplant community, GVHD patients and caregivers with resources and support.

How should this day be observed? Empowerment begins with education and connection. Learning about GVHD — and how to get involved in the community — can go a long way in helping to raise awareness about this rare disease.

On GVHD Day, informational resources will be shared to help patient and caregivers learn more about GVHD and what the community can be doing to address unmet needs. There will also be social media campaigns: #GVHD-Day, #GVHD-Connect4Hope and live celebrations with members of the GVHD community in conjunction with the Tandem Meetings of American Society of Transplantation and Cellular Therapy (ASTCT) and the Center for International Blood & Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR). The inaugural GVHD Day is to take place at the annual meeting on February 17, 2023, in Orlando, FL and virtually in social media.

Who created this day? This day was created by Meredith A. Cowden in 2023.