Calabash_Issue 9 Apr. 2014 - Page 99

Meeting Men at the Africa Centre international By Kemi Johnson – Communications Officer, NHS Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia Screening Programme Photos by Ade Daramy As Africans it is likely that many of us could have a family member or a friend who has sickle cell trait, or indeed the disease, since it is a condition that affects us more than any other ethnic group in the world. Sickle cell is a serious inherited blood disease that can cause pain and severe anaemia. Out of the 15 million people in the world believed to have sickle cell disease, approximately 10 million of these live in Africa. The condition is particularly common in West Africa (e.g. Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone) with over 4 million Nigerians affected by it. Sickle cell disease also affects people from the Caribbean, Asia, the Mediterranean and Middle East. However, it should not be seen as a ‘black’ disease as it can affect ‘white’ people too, though less frequently. 13000 or more people in the UK have sickle cell disease. Most textbooks or publications on sickle cell disease will tell you that the disease was discovered in 1910 by Dr James Herrick an American doctor from Chicago, but this is only when the disease first became known in the West. The first written account of this disease was published in 1874 by Africanus Horton who was born in Sierra Leone (of Igbo parentage) in 1835. Iyamide Thomas, Regional Care Advisor, Sickle Cell Society introduces the session New leaflet for men The event was a successful collaboration between the Screening Programme, the Sickle Cell Society, the 100 Black Men of London and Africa Centre. The Family Legacy is an educational and entertaining British- Nigerian DVD drama which raises awareness about sickle cell disease and in particular a father’s struggle in accepting that his son’s condition could only be passed on through his and his wife’s genes. The idea of inheritance formed the basis of the discussion between the panel and audience members who were the first to receive the new Tests for Dads leaflet, which has been produced specifically for men. It explains about the test which is offered to men whose pregnant partner has been screened for sickle cell and thalassaemia and has been identified as a carrier. The night provided some lively debate and the input from men was much welcomed. The two men on the panel were both carriers of the sickle cell gene and they both gave accounts of how they discovered this. They both felt that a leaflet aimed specifically at men during the pregnancy period (known as antenatal period) would do much to involve men and help them appreciate the significance of their role. L-R: Wilfred Wright, IT Consultant, Comfort Okolo- Retired Sickle Cell Nurse Specialist, Lenny Henry a supporter of the NHS Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia Screening Olu Alake -President 100 Black Men of London and Liz Aram, Communications Programme knows only too well the benefits Consultant -NHS Sickle Cell & Thalassaemia Screening Programme Almost 100 guests braved the freezing cold of February recently, for the launch of the NHS Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia Screening Programme’s Tests for Dads leaflet, together with a screening of the Family Legacy at The Africa Centre, in London’s Covent Garden. issue nine | Calabash Magazine | 97