Jamaica Gleaner - - FINANCIAL GLEANER -

I in­vite you to join with us as we ob­serve World Sickle Cell Aware­ness Day 2020un­der the theme, ‘Sickle Cell Com­mu­nity: Pro­tected and proud in a time of COVID-19’. In or­der for a child to be born with SCD, both par­ents must have a gene that af­fects the pro­duc­tion of he­mo­glo­bin, and at least one must be a sickle gene. Fif­teen per­cent of Ja­maican adults have such a gene; 10% sickle gene, 5% an­other gene. This is why all of us Ja­maicans should know our own sta­tus, as well as that of our part­ners, po­ten­tial part­ners and chil­dren. If you are un­sure, I in­vite you to visit your health­care provider to be tested. The risk of pre­ma­ture death due to SCD is high­est in the first three years of life. Test­ing at birth al­lows the early ini­ti­a­tion of ther­apy which de­creases need­less death and com­pli­ca­tions. As Ja­maicans, we can be proud; the test­ing of nu­mer­ous ba­bies at birth was first done in Ja­maica as a part of a re­search project. In­fants in many coun­triesare tested and start on treat­ment early.As of 2015, in­fants born in most hos­pi­tals in Ja­maica have been tested. This year, all re­main­ing hos­pi­tals joined the Na­tional SCD New­born Screen­ing Pro­gramme. Preg­nant women are also tested for SCD; they are at in­creased risk com­pared to other women of dy­ing dur­ing and im­me­di­ately af­ter preg­nancy. Women known to have SCD are cared for in spe­cial high­high-risk an­te­na­tal clin­ics to pro­tect them and their ba­bies. At the Sickle Cell Unit, re­search con­tin­ues to im­prove the lives of af­fected per­sons. Sev­eral projects are un­der­way. One seeks to im­prove the use of hy­drox­yurea, a med­i­ca­tion known to de­crease the risk of strokes in chil­dren. An­other is test­ing a pos­si­ble cure for the dis­ease. Pro­tected: Per­sons with SCD have in­creased risk of se­vere com­pli­ca­tions of COVID-19 so we en­cour­age all af­fected per­sons to min­imise ex­po­sure. Re­mote tele-vis­its have suc­cess­fully re­placed face-to-face vis­its, when pos­si­ble. Ad­di­tion­ally, the Min­istry of Health and Well­ness has added a crit­i­cal vac­cine­tothose that they pro­vide free of cost to chil­dren with SCD.The vac­cine im­proves pro­tec­tion against a se­ri­ous bac­terium called Pneu­mo­coc­cus. Proud: We recog­nise the Ja­maicans liv­ing with SCD who keep go­ing re­gard­less of the com­pli­ca­tions, es­pe­cially se­vere pain.The dis­ease is very vari­able. Some per­sons have few com­pli­ca­tions, and in­fre­quently. Oth­ers may have jaun­dice, ane­mia, leg ul­cers and other vis­i­ble signs of their dis­ease. Some may miss school or work and have to work harder to catch up.Some face stigma and dis­crim­i­na­tion be­cause of their dis­ease. Nev­er­the­less, many live pro­duc­tive lives, con­tribut­ing pos­i­tively to Ja­maica’s progress. We thank their fam­i­lies, friends, col­leagues, teach­ers, health­care providers, ad­vo­cates and other cheer­lead­ers who sup­port them in the jour­ney. We in­vite you to join with us in call­ing out and fight­ing against stigma against peo­ple with SCD and at the same time to cel­e­brate and sup­port Ja­maicans af­fected by this dis­or­der as they con­trib­ute to build­ing our so­ci­ety. Pro­fes­sor Jen­nifer Knight-Mad­den Di­rec­tor, Sickle Cell Unit, the Car­ib­bean In­sti­tute for Health Re­search, The Univer­sity of the West Indies.

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