The Federal Government has said it will not criminalize marriage
between carriers of sickle cell disease in the country.
The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health, Linus Awute,
disclosed this on Friday June 19, in Abuja at a news conference
organized to mark the 2015 World Sickle Cell Day.
The government was reacting to speculations that it was pursuing a
legislation to ban marriage between victims of the disease.
He said the Federal Government through the ministry will rather adopt
aggressive public sensitization that will be geared towards creating more
awareness about the disease in Nigeria.
“Couples who are carriers are still getting married today out of ignorance
and the best way to cure ignorance is by sensitization of the public.
“Criminalizing marriage between two carriers is undemocratic because it
will amount to criminalizing love, so government is not even
contemplating that option.
“We are in a democracy and I think everybody is free to choose his or
her partner, so the best approach for now is sensitization which will be at
the head of other strategies,’’ he said.
The secretary, however, acknowledged the fact that the burden of the
disease in Nigeria is high and that there is an urgent need for actions to
be scaled up.
He said the ministry has developed a set of guidelines for the
management of the disease which is now functional in designated centres
across the country.
Awute said the government in addition to the sensitisation approach is
working towards integrating management of sickle cell and other non-
communicable diseases in the nation’s primary healthcare system.
He said plans towards reducing the burden in Nigeria will also include
expanding the scope of treatment in the six geo-political zones.
According to him, the centres include Abakaliki for the South-East zone;
Birnin Kebbi for North-West; Ebute Metta for South West; Gombe for
North-East; Keffi for North-Central, and Yenagoa for the South-South
He said the efforts by the federal government also include the
commencement of stem cell transplant at the University of Benin
Statistics indicate that over 100 million persons in the world are affected
by the disease, while an estimated 40 million Nigerians are carriers of
the sickle cell trait.
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