Sunday, July 5, 2009

‘Arab societies more prone to genetic diseases’

The Gulf Today, 23 Nov 2008

About 9,389 young UAE residents have undergone pre-marital medical tests in the country since last March. The campaign has shown that Arab societies are more prone to genetic diseases as they have the tradition of marrying close relatives, informed officials at the health ministry.
The pre-marriage health screening campaign has been launched by the UAE Ministry of Health (MoH) in last March, with clinics at all MoH healthcare centers across the UAE.
A spokesperson at MoH revealed the statistics that one child out of 25 is affected by hereditary diseases because of genetic disturbance in the first 25 years of his life. It includes mental retardation or physical handicap.
“Nine out of the 25 children would die early or would need especial care in hospitals or frequently. These diseases can be prevented only through pre-marriage screenings,” he added.
Humaid Mohamed Al Qutami, the UAE Minster of Health said, “All the couples who attended the MoH’s medical tests were given the results along with recommendations. A report was also issued to proceed with the marriage contract, if the results were normal. However, the procedures were not applicable for marriage contracts done outside UAE.”
“Screening tests for the marriage candidates covered hereditary diseases, blood disorders as well as diseases that need bacterial and viral screening tests and diseases like hepatitis, AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. Preventive treatments are provided through the medical tests and the process helped them detect all types of diseases, especially genetic disorders.”
“The MoH has also conducted counseling or educational campaigns to explain the steps to be taken if the test results were positive. Some cases were transferred to specialised clinics for further tests and others for follow-up treatments as per requirements. Vaccinations were given for diseases like German Measles and Hepatitis,” he added.
The medical report for marriage candidates is in line with the clause number 27 for 2005 of the Civil Law as per the remarks given by the court presidents in the UAE and the clinic centres for the pre-marriage tests at the UAE Ministry of Health.
The minister pointed out, “The MoH initiated the drive aimed at minimising social, psychological and economic consequences of genetic diseases that are passed on to children through marriage. The drive to raise the awareness among national and expatriate residents in the country on the importance of conducting tests before marriage. The authorities are keen to send the message that ignoring these tests is dangerous not only to the couples and their children, but also to the society as a whole.”
MoH conducted the pre-marital test campaign was conducted in co-operation with BinSina Pharmacy. Ahmed Al Khayyat, Managing Director of Alphamed Group, the parent company of BinSina, said, “The message is that simple medical screenings could help build a disease free marriage. The screening was mandatory and not an optional activity for the good of the couples and their children.”
“We distributed brochures to raise awareness about pre-marriage screening and motivating them to undergo the tests. These tests are done at specialised centres of the MoH across the country. Counseling is also provided to people undergoing the tests,” he added.
According to him, studies show that hereditary diseases and physical handicaps can be prevented through pre-marriage screening. Common diseases than can be prevented from being passed on to the next generation through screenings include Thalassemia, AIDS and tuberculosis.

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