World Sickle Cell Day FG says marriage between carriers of disease will not be criminalised

The government reacted to speculations that it was pursuing a legislation to ban marriage between victims of the disease.

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The Federal Government has said it will not criminalise 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 organised 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 sensitisation 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 sensitisation of the public.

"Criminalising marriage between two carriers is undemocratic because it will amount to criminalising 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 sensitisation 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 region.

He said the efforts by the federal government also include the commencement of stem cell transplant at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital.

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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