Professor Syed Atiqul Haq
PROFESSOR OF RHEUMATOLOGY , BSM
MEDICAL UNIVERSITY , DHAKA , BANGLADESH
PRESIDENT , APLAR
The Asia Pacific League of Association for Rheumatology ( APLAR ) began its journey in Sydney , Australia in 1963 as SEAPAL ( South-East Asia and Pacific Area League Against Rheumatism ) with Dr S Nelson of Australia as the first President . Australia , New Zealand , Japan and India were the founding member countries and over the course of 58 years , a total of 34 countries have since joined this esteemed league .
The main vision of APLAR is the promotion of education , research and evidence-based treatment of rheumatic disorders . In keeping with this vision , APLAR holds an annual scientific congress ; publishes a monthly journal ; disburses grants for training , research and Community Oriented Program
for Control of Rheumatic Diseases ( COPCORD ) activities ; offers Centres of Excellence ( CoE ) awards to selected deserving centres across Asia-Pacific ; runs Special interest Groups and an APLAR Young Rheumatologist forum .
Since 2019 , we have collaborated with our European counterpart — the European League Against Rheumatism ( EULAR ). This relationship has been of benefit to young rheumatologists by providing them cost-effective access to the EULAR School of Rheumatology and the congress exchange program . This year , we have introduced intercongress educational webinars . So far , APLAR has provided four major treatment recommendations for managing patients with different rheumatic disorders in Asia-Pacific . This covers rheumatoid arthritis ( RA ), revised RA recommendations , axial spondyloarthritis and treatment of rheumatic patients during the COVID-19 pandemic .
Expanding our membership base is important for fulfilling our mission . With the recent affiliation of various rheumatology organisations with APLAR , our membership countries has increased to 34 . Looking ahead , we are going to introduce two new opportunities for rheumatologists : a congress travel bursary for young rheumatologists and CoE exchange programs for rheumatology faculties in academic institutions . In addition , we are revamping our bulletin
under the name “ Voice of APLAR ” and , aspire to shape the practice of rheumatology in the coming years , particularly in countries where this specialty remains uncommon .
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a major challenge . It has impacted major activities of the League and compelled us to hold our congress 2020 virtually . Asia Pacific is a huge territory containing 60 % of the world ’ s population with a very diverse culture and economic strength . There are altogether 73 countries and territories in Asia Pacific . Rheumatology has not yet grown as a specialty in the majority of the remaining 39 countries and territories . It is quite challenging for any organisation to be able to pursue its missions across the entire Asia-Pacific region , and to grow as a true representative of the region . Resources form the third challenge .
Indeed , the pandemic has forced us to embrace the digital platform and to harness its opportunities . At first , it was not our objective to meet so frequently , to resolve emergent issues and to move APLAR ahead so quickly . A recent rapid economic progress in many of the Asia-Pacific countries , that are collectively known as the ‘ emerging economies ’, has opened additional opportunities . For instance , we expect to receive more industry support than in the past . Moreover , APLAR has become more dynamic over time with the
development of further treatment guidance , disease registries and educational events . Specialties are growing in many more countries .
In 2021 , APLAR has published a set of recommendations on treatment of rheumatic patients during the COVID-19 pandemic . The recommendations for the management of systemic lupus erythematosus have recently been accepted and will be published soon . What is more , APLAR members and our experienced and dedicated teams are working hard to develop recommendations on the use of telemedicine in rheumatic practice , peripheral spondyloarthritis and psoriatic arthritis .
Based on the strong foundations of the past and the knowledge of the present , the future of APLAR looks promising .
In tribute to past editors
Dr Kenneth Muirden , founder of the APLAR bulletin .
The late Dr Prakash Pispati , founder of the Voice of APLAR publication .