Parents Urged To Test For Sickle Cell Before Having Children

2407 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
20 percent of Ugandans an estimate of 6 million people have the sickle cell gene and are a risk of having a child with the disease.

Sickle cell is one of those diseases least talked about yet, there is a high risk of more Ugandans inheriting the disease from their parents due to lack of early diagnosis.

According to the Sickle cell Association of Uganda, 20 percent of Ugandans, an estimate of 6 million people, have the sickle cell gene and are a risk of having a child with the disease.

This is because most couples do not get tested before deciding to have a child, yet sickle cell is a genetic disease caused by one inheriting two abnormal genes from parents.

Often this happens even when the parents do not have the disease, however they may be carriers.

In an interview with Uganda Radio Network (URN) during a patient’s solidarity meeting at the Orthodox Hospital in Namungoona, Ruth Mukiibi, Founder of the Sickle cell Association of Uganda, explained that carriers do not test for the disease, making it difficult to determine if they have the sickle cell trait. 

Available statistics indicate that 30,000 babies are born annually with the disease, sadly 80% of these die before 5 years. Mukiibi an expectant mother and a sicklier herself, advises couples to test for the sickle cell trait before they decide to have a child to reduce risks.

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Olinga Andrew a sickle cell patient who has lived with the disease for 34 years says growing up with the disease was difficult.

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According to Dr. Stephen Watiti, Advocacy Manager at Mild May Uganda, the disease cannot be cured; however it is possible to change the patient’s bone marrow to produce normal red cells.

Dr. Watiti notes that the procedure is expensive, risky and requires complicated treatment. He emphasized the need for intervention within the Ugandan Health Policy framework to deal with such diseases that are bound to be neglected.

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Currently, there is only one sickle cell clinic in Uganda at Mulago Hospital.