Howard University Hospital, in collaboration with the Howard University Center for Sickle Cell Disease, held a free sickle cell trait testing program at Rankin Memorial Chapel on Sept. 17 in correlation with National Sickle Cell Awareness Month.
Though one in 12 African-Americans are carriers of the sickle cell trait, most are healthy. However, statistics show that if two healthy people come together but are carriers of the trait, there is a one in four chance with every pregnancy that they will have a child with active sickle cell disease.
“The number one admission to Howard University Hospital is complications with sickle cell,” said Johari Abdul-Malik, former researcher and genetic counselor at the HU Center for Disease and executive director for Faces of Our Children.
Dr. Alexis A. Thompson, president-elect of the D.C.-based American Society of Hematology, the largest professional medical society for those treating blood diseases, said African-Americans are the ones most at risk.
“The sickle cell disease trait is most commonly found in areas like Africa, India and Southeast Asia,” Thompson said. “Hemoglobin disorders follow the malaria belt around the globe and people who have this trait are relatively protected from malaria. For these reasons that is why the disease appears to be more persistent within the African-American community; however, it is not exclusive that one race.
“Aside from every other race, doctors are also beginning to notice an increase in the disease among Hispanics, which more reason why people should know their status,” she said.
Thompson said that it is never too early or too late to invest in proper care.
“People should make sure that they have access to not only a good primary care physician, but also a hematologist,” she said. “Hematologists specialize in the work of blood and will be able to better pinpoint items of concern for individuals.
“In addition, people should also consider clinical trials which we have on our website, that benefit not only oneself, but the next generation coming,” Thompson said. “Know your status. In today’s world, over 95 percent of people with this disease go on to live long and productive lives, so get tested.”