Accra, June 18, GNA - Dr Tsease Kyemenu-Caiquo, Vice Chairperson of Sickle Cell Condition Advocates (SICCA), a health-related non-governmental organisation, on Tuesday appealed to Ghanaians to know their sickle cell status before marriage.
He said this was important because the disease was assuming an alarming proportion in the country due to the fact that most people did not check their status before marriage.
This, he said, resulted in the spread of the condition through the genetic mutation of their Haemoglobin (Hb) which was usually Hb AS and combined to become commonly Hb SS or Hb SC sickling in some of their off-springs.
In Ghana two per cent of children at birth are diagnosed with sickle cell conditions with about 25-30 percent of Ghanaians carrying the sickle cell genes that can result in the disease.
World Health Organization reports also estimate that more than 300,000 children are born with the disease each year world-wide.
Dr Kyemenu-Caiquo, who was addressing the media at the launch of the 2013 World Sickle Cell Awareness Day, called for stronger partnership with all stakeholders including the media to address the problem.
He said the theme for this years commemoration: Know Your Sickle Cell Status, is to prevent its occurrence and enlighten the public on the importance of early diagnoses and care and advocacy for premarital counseling.
Dr Kyemenu-Caiquo said the annual event which falls on June 19, was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in a resolution which recognised Sickle Cell as a public health problem and one of the worlds foremost genetic diseases.
The event would also help to reduce the number of children born with Sickle Cell conditions, ensure early diagnoses and proper care to prevent complications and deaths especially in children under the ages of five and in pregnant women.
Dr Kyemenu-Caiquo said SICCA believed that creating awareness for people to make informed choices when choosing their life partners would be the only viable long-term approach to control the condition.
By preventing as many affected births as possible through pre-conception screening, the limited available resources can be used for providing better care for the existing sickle cell patients, he said.
Dr Ivy Ekem, Director and Head of the Ghana Institute of Clinical Genetics (GICG), encouraged people who had been diagnosed with the condition to seek regular medical care and adhere to their treatment regimen.
She advised parents with diagnosed sickle cell children to seek further counselling on how to care for them and also urged society to desist from stigmatizing such children and persons with the condition and support them physically to live normal lives.
Dr Ekem said stigma had been one major challenge hindering voluntary testing for sickle cell in Ghana and appealed to the media to intensify advocacy and education.
She said this would raise public awareness to effect policy changes in funding mechanisms and expanded infrastructure to support care and treatment of sickle cell patients and further implement sustainable programmes to curtail the disease in the country.