Ghanaians have been asked not to see sickle cell disease as a “death sentence” or an “evil disease”, but rather a genetic blood disorder that could be prevented and managed.
Mr. Kofi Tenkorang, Chief Executive Officer of African Sickle Cell Watch, a non-governmental organisation, also appealed to the public to assist in the fight against the stigmatization associated with the disease.
Mr. Tenkorang made the call at the University of Ghana, Legon, on Saturday, during a health screening and blood donation exercise.
The programme dubbed “Legon goes Red Reloaded”, was supported by Youth Action Movement, Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana (PPAG), and African Sickle Cell Watch (ASCW).Over 200 students are expected to undergo free HIV Testing, Eye and Breast Cancer Screening, Sickle cell disease and cervical cancer screening among others.
The occasion was used to distribute free condoms to the students and provide counselling services.
Mr. Tenkrong emphasized the need for the public to be made aware of the fact that sickle cell disease was not an evil disease as perceived by a section of the public.
According to him, the disease has been considered by the United Nations as a global public health concern which has social economic effects on a country.
The Chief Executive Officer of ASCW urged the public to do away with the notion that people affected by the disease often do not leave longer, adding that “persons with sickle cell disease could live a long and quality life if they get the needed support from families and embark on regular check-ups at medical facilities.”
He regretted the spate of divorce among couples whose kids have the disease, adding that women are now left with the burden of taking care of those children.
“This should not be so, men and women should rather come together to offer support in terms of financial, emotional and psychological support,” Mr Tenkorang said.
He appealed to the men who abandon their families to lend a hand in managing the disease and not flee from their marriages.
When asked why his organisation chose the University to embark on the screening, Mr Tenkorang said the students were young and were entering into relationships which could lead to marriages and therefore it was important for them to know their sickle cell status before marriage.
He further observed that the women dominated the screening exercise because they often feel the brunt of the effect of the diseases by taking care of children with the disease.
Mr. Tenkornag said one of the core mandates of his organisation was to create awareness through education and embark on advocacy of the sickle cell disease to reduce its prevalence and high morbidity in Ghana and Africa at large.
He said screening at the University was going to be a yearly affair to ensure that students ascertained their status and reduced the current prevalence.
Last year, Sickle cell Disease prevalence rate was about 25 per cent, and an estimated two per cent of births, amounting to approximately 15,000 babies were born with the disease annually.
The World Health Organisation estimates that, five per cent of the world’s population have traits, and over 300,000 babies are born annually with haemoglobinopathies (mostly Sickle Cell Disease and thalassemia).