Photograph — Nephron

Couples-to-be in Sokoto state would shortly be required by law to undergo tests for genotype, HIV/AIDS, and Hepatitis B before they can be wedded. The development of this health policy is in line with the state government’s mission to curb the sickle cell, AIDS, and Hepatitis diseases in both the state and the country as a whole. Grooms-to-be would also be required to include mosquito-treated nets in their bride prices.

The disclosure was yesterday made at a ceremony organised by the Sokoto State Ministry of Health and NGO, The Productive Youth Development Initiative, to commemorate the 2017 World Sickle Cell Awareness Day being marked today. State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Balarabe Kakale further stated that a seminar would be organised with medical experts in addition to traditional and religious leaders, to tighten the rules and provisions of the new law, before it makes its way to the Sokoto State House of Assembly for signing.

This new law would also entail intended couples enrolling in the state’s community contributory health scheme, under which diseases such as those aforementioned, as well as organ-related ones and bone fractures caused by accidents.

Sokoto state underlines the need for awareness and procurement of adequate treatment for these diseases as the fundamental reason behind promulgating the policy. The District Head of Gagi, Alhaji Sani Umar stressed the importance of enlightening those in the rural areas who suffer from the diseases through counselling, screening, and testing.

The dreadful scourge of sickle cell disease in Nigeria is an unpopular one. About 30 percent of the populace are afflicted by the disease, causing them physical, emotional, and psychosocial pain. In one too many cases, the disease claims the lives of those it affects, and regresses their development. The disease is also transferable from pregnant mothers to their unborn babies. Unfortunately, there remains no cure for the disease anywhere in the world.

Given the damaging effects of sickle cell disease, a policy such as that which the Sokoto state government is introducing to curb it – which mandates testing before lifelong commitments – is both necessary and proactive.

Except in the face of legal mandate, individuals tend to be rather reluctant to take the initiative when it comes to matters that affect their health. Thus, ensuring that it becomes a step that they cannot bypass before an event as significant as marriage helps to make the vow to remain with their partners in sickness and in health a more conscious one.

What’s more, the policy kills two birds with a stone. While it helps couples understand what their genotypes are and prepare against unwanted health surprises, those who have no idea about the full extent and implications of the disease would be gaining needful knowledge that can go miles in curbing the devastating reach of the disease in the country.

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