By Patrick Obia
As every September is mapped out for sickle cell awareness month, sickle cell advocate, Miss Offiong Ononokpono has advised that intending couples should endeavor to know their genotypes before marriage to avoid disaster of compatibility.
Miss Offiong, who has being on the streets of Calabar campaigning against sickle cell in the State, said sickle cell which is suffered worldwide but usually termed “black disease” with Nigeria bearing the highest burden with more than 150,000 children born with this disease annually and estimated to be between 2-3% according to Prevalence on Chronic Complications in Adult Sickle Cell Anemia Patients in Tertiary Hospital in South-South Nigeria.
Her words: “September is sickle cell awareness month, it is actually a month set aside and usually celebrated in America but for me, sickle cell awareness never ends.
“We have to keep creating awareness until sickle cell becomes known by everybody. We have the highest population of those having sickle cell disease here in Nigeria, so we have to keep talking about sickle cell, telling people about it, how well it can be managed, and how we can reduce the number of sickle cell births in the country.”
She gave the admonition in an exclusive interview with CrossRiverWatch adding that, “Sickle cell disease is the most common genetic disorder worldwide with Nigeria bearing the highest burden. The global prevalence of sickle cell disease is 20-25 million, and about 12-15 million affected persons are in Sub-Sahara Africa. The WHO estimated that 300,000 children are born annually with sickle cell disease, 75% of whom are in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“In Nigeria, more than 150,000 children are born with this disease annually. The overall prevalence of sickle cell disease in Nigeria is estimated to be between 2-3%; however, there are slight variations from one region to another. Akaba et al reported a prevalence of 2.28% in South-South Nigeria. Similarly a prevalence of 2.4% of sickle cell disease was reported in Southwest of Nigeria.
“I do this program so I can tell people about it. it is a blood disorder and it is not like HIV/AIDS that is gotten from sexual transmission but it is gotten when a mother who has AS genotype and a father who has AS genotype come together, get married, when they get married there is a 25% chance of one child having sickle cell, you look at the AS and the AS, the S come from the mother, the S comes from the father and form a sickle cell child, that is what causes sickle cell disease when two parents who have two type genotype come together, get married and have a child.
“That is why I try to advocate before anyone get married they should know their genotype; AS and AS cannot get married because they will have sickle cell child but AA can get married to AS; AA can get married to SS, that way there will be no sickle cell child.
“So anyone going into marriage now, should please check their genotypes before going into it, for any Church conducting marriage, the Church should insist on proper genotype test done in a reliable hospital laboratory so that we don’t have the issues of faulty results; they should make it compulsory in every Church that everyone getting into marriage should do a genotype test and when the result come out AS, AS they should please not go into.”
Furthermore, she maintained that being a sickle cell patient doesn’t mean the world is over, dreams can be achieved. She said, “The oldest person that had sickle cell in Nigeria died January this year at the age of 95. The oldest persons living with sickle cell disease in Cross River is 65 years old and she is a medical doctor so you can become whatever you want to become.”
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