Feb 082006
Authors: Mike Donovan

One in every 500 black people is born with some form of sickle cell anemia, yet the disease is known as "the forgotten disease."

In conjunction with Black History Month, a coalition of CSU organizations is doing their part to raise money and awareness of sickle cell anemia.

The Interfraternity Council, the National Pan-Hellenic Council and the Latino Greek Council are sponsoring a basketball tournament to raise money for sickle cell anemia research. The fundraiser will take place at 2 p.m. on Feb. 18 in the recreation center.

The tournament will be a three-on-three tournament with teams registering at the door, said Aisha Williams , president of the national Pan-Hellenic Council.

"The tournament is free but we are accepting donations," Williams said. "We are being sponsored by Hartshorn Health Center and the Student Recreation Center. The money will be donated to Hartshorn for sickle cell anemia research."

Sickle cell anemia is the most widespread of sickle-cell diseases that affect the red blood cells. According to the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA), the sickle-cell anemia and the other sickle-cell diseases can cause strokes, lung tissue damage and damage to most organs. People infected with sickle cell anemia have a life expectancy of about 40 years.

Dr. Ernest A. Turner, director of the Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center in Nashville, Tenn., believes sickle cell disease is a problem that needs to be addressed.

"Sickle cell disease is a worldwide health problem," Turner said. "In Africa alone there are approximately 200,000 infants born with the disease. In the United States there are approximately 2,000 infants born annually."

While there is no cure for the disease, the SCDAA says education is key to keep the spread of the sickle cell diseases. While parents can get tested to see if they carry the sickle-cell trait, very few actually take the time to see if they can pass sickle cell anemia to their children. Dr. Willarda V. Edwards, president of SCDAA, said testing is the best way to prevent the spread of sickle-cell disease.

"A high priority is placed on programs to educate people of childbearing age about the sickle cell conditions and to motivate them to voluntarily be tested for the trait," Edwards said.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, eight percent of blacks carry the trait that contains sickle cell anemia. A person contracts the disease if both of their birth parents have the sickle cell trait. While blacks are most likely to carry the trait, people who have Hispanic or Arabian backgrounds can also be affected.

The first major American law dealing with sickle-cell diseases in over 20 years was enacted in 2004. The Sickle Cell Treatment Act sets aside $10 million annually over a five-year period for the establishment of 40 treatment centers that deal specifically with sickle cell anemia.

Colorado has a medical center specifically for sickle-cell diseases. The Colorado Sickle Cell Treatment and Research Center was established in 1974 and is the region's only medical facility that specifically deals with sickle-cell patients.

Mike Donovan can be reached at regional@collegian.com.

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