World Sickle Cell Day: Ugandans Advised to Carry out Premarital Testing

As the World marks and commemorates the World Sickle Cell Day, website Ugandans intending to get married have been advised to always carry out premarital Sickle Cell test in a bid to fight the high prevalence levels in the country.

The warning was passed by the Acting Director General for Health Service, Dr. Anthony Mbonye while addressing journalists about World Sickle Cell day at the Media Centre in Kampala.

Dr. Mbonye noted that this year’s celebration of the World Sickle Cell Day is to be held in Bundibugyo because it is one of the high burden districts with a prevalence of 21.7 percent of trait and 1.9 percent of disease.

“Surprisingly all districts around Bundibugyo apart from Ntoroko with a trait prevalence of 15 percent, the rest of the districts around it have a prevalence of trait of less than 10 percent. Bundibugyo has always been known to have a high burden of sickle cell disease, since a study conducted in 1949 put the prevalence of trait among the Bamba in Bundibugyo at 45 percent,” Mbonye observed.

Mbonye noted that, “All other factors remaining constant, what promotes increased spread of sickle cell trait and disease amongst communities is increased intermarriages among carriers without knowledge, due to lack of premarital sickle cell testing and counseling.”

“If we are to reduce the incidence of sickle cell disease in Bundibugyo and any other part of the country, premarital sickle cell counseling and testing must be encouraged. For this to be done effectively, communities must be adequately sensitized, and several stakeholders involved especially religious, cultural and political leaders.”

In 2014, the Ministry of Health carried out a survey to establish the prevalence of Sickle Cell trait and sickle cell disease across the country, which documented a high sickle cell burden, with a national trait average of 13.3%, and disease burden of 0.73%.

However, the distribution is not uniform across the country. In some high burden districts the prevalence of the trait is above 20% and that of the disease above 1.5%. Uganda has been the 1st country in Africa to come out with national prevalence data, which has also been published in one of the leading journal globally (The Lancet).

Dr. Mbonye remarked that to improve patient management early testing and patient identification should be encouraged.

“As the Ministry of Health, we have started targeted new born screening in high burden districts, coupled with setting up of sickle cell clinics. I am happy to report that this will immediately start in Bundibugyo after this event.”

He added that the Ministry of Health, working with other development partners have instituted newborn screening services and will continue scaling this up to more high burden districts.

“I call upon all stakeholders including the media, politicians, cultural and religious leaders, and the general public to join the fight against sickle cell disease. Though not curable, (except through very expensive and risky procedures like born marrow transplant), sickle cell disease is preventable through premarital testing and counseling and is also manageable through early patient identification and management.”


Header advertisement
To Top