Pope seeks to end stigma of devastating Huntington's Disease

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis is trying to end the stigma of people afflicted with Huntington's Disease, an incurable genetic brain disorder that causes such serious involuntary movements and psychiatric problems that sufferers are often shunned and isolated.

Francis held an audience Thursday with Huntington's sufferers and their families, as well as patient organizations and researchers trying to find treatments and a cure. Organizers said Francis was the first world leader to recognize the plight of those with Huntington's, and said the audience marked the start of a global awareness campaign.

Many of the families came from South America, where Huntington's is 1,000 times more prevalent than in the rest of the world. It is particularly prevalent in Venezuela, where the affected gene was first identified 25 years ago.