Reality star and supermodel matriarch Yolanda Hadid has caused a stir in Sydney by comparing Lyme Disease to HIV.
On a working holiday in Australia while promoting a new Nine digital lifestyle portal, an emotional Yolanda told a packed launch audience that more must be done to find a cure for the tick-borne illness.
The 52-year-old has suffered from the often debilitating symptoms since she was diagnosed in 2012. She later discovered she’d also passed it on to supermodel daughter Bella and her son Anwar.
“We all pull together so beautifully for HIV,” said the Dutch-born former model, who also underwent a painful divorce to David Foster in recent months.
“Lyme is three times more prevalent right now, it’s a world-wide epidemic, the first case was diagnosed in 1972… yet we haven’t done anything about it.”
But a Sydney-based doctor noted the two diseases were “not on par.”
“If HIV isn’t treated, people die. If Lyme disease isn’t treated, then people can feel unwell for a very long time,” Brad McKay told News AU.
It was rare for Lyme Disease to cause mortality, he said, and it’s “easily treated with antibiotics” if diagnosed early enough.
“If it’s not diagnosed, then it can cause damage to many different parts of the human body.”
Nic Holas, founder of The Institute of Many, a grassroots movement for people living with HIV, said comparisons between diseases were understandable but ultimately unhelpful.
“We should be wary of falling into the numbers game,” Nic said.
Yolanda says her condition is now in remission, but Bella, who had to shelve dreams of becoming an Olympic equestrian rider, continues to suffer.
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star says she’s determined to find a cure for Lyme disease “not only for my own children but for the rest of the millions of people who suffer”.
“We’re not the only ones – there’s millions of others that suffer from the same disease and we’re in it to win it, so we keep going.”