Knowledge, Beliefs and Attitude towards Sickle Cell Disease among Students of Kampala International University Jinja Teaching Site Uganda

Jamilu, Ibrahim Ahmad

Faculty of Clinical Medicine and Dentistry Kampala International University Western Campus, Uganda


Sickle cell disease (SCD) is one of the most widespread hereditary disorders among the African lineage. SCD is associated with recurrent severe pain, increased morbidity and mortality yet has received less recognition in the public domain. Evidence of the need to increase awareness to reduce the disease incidence is increasing due to the rising incidence of this preventable disease. This study aimed to describe the knowledge, beliefs and attitude towards SCD of students at Kampala international university. A descriptive cross-sectional study design was employed. A total of 384 university students participated in the study, and using a semi-structured questionnaire, information was collected from participants on demographic characteristics, general knowledge of SCD, and beliefs and attitudes of students towards SCD. Nearly all the students were aware of SCD (99.2%). Knowledge level of respondents on SCD based on scores revealed a mean score of 9.7± 4.5 with 65%, 30%, and 5% for poor, moderate and excellent respectively. Most of the respondents strongly agreed that they feel worried (52.9%) and sympathetic (51.3%) for people affected with SCD. Participants had the belief that it is an inherited disease acquired from parents (48.2%) but not a punishment from God (76.3%). In general, there was a limited understanding and inadequate knowledge of SCD among the students particularly on the pattern of inheritance. Results from the study highlights the need for effective public health education on SCT/SCD in trusted sources such as schools, media (radio/Television), health centres and churches. This is necessary to address misconceptions and increase knowledge level as well as an understanding of the risks of having a child with SCD to influence personal reproductive options.

Keywords: Sickle cell disease, Parents, Students, Child, Preventable disease.


Sickle cell disease (SCD) refers to a group of inherited haemoglobin disorders characterized by a predominance of abnormal sickle haemoglobin in erythrocytes [1]. This genetic disorder (SCD) is a result of an abnormality in the synthesis of the B-globin chain of the haemoglobin molecule that results from the substitution of a polar amino acid, glutamic acid, with a non-polar amino acid, valine, in the 6th position of on chromosome11 [2], [3], [4]. Sickle cell anaemia, which results from homozygous inheritance of sickle-haemoglobin from both parents, is the most common and severe form of sickle cell disease which on deoxygenation, sickle haemoglobin undergoes a conformational change that promotes intracellular polymerization, that leads to distortion of the normal biconcave erythrocyte disc into the distinctive and pathological crescent shape [5]. The resulting hemolytic anaemia manifests as recurrent vas occlusion and organ damage that together cause substantial morbidity and early mortality [6]. The impact of SCD threatening the life of people suffering from its effects results in an average lifespan of around the mid to late 40s [1]. For instance, SCD results in anaemia that may present with symptoms of fatigue, jaundice, and shortness of breath; continuous tissue and organ damage; pulmonary disease; and stroke [7]. Pain crises, caused by vas occlusion, are the trademark of SCD and affect most people with the disease (Novelli & Gladwin, 2016). Vasoocclusion occurs when the sickled red blood cells (RBC) obstruct the other blood cells resulting in an inadequate supply of blood to the organs [8]. The initial pain episode generally occurs as swelling in the hands and feet (hand-foot syndrome or dactylitis) resulting from decreased oxygen caused by blocked blood vessels. Moreover, almost 50% of children with SCD get dactylitis by the age of two. For children with SCD, approximately 50 to 60% of all emergency room visits and 60 to 80% of hospitalizations are due to pain crises [2]. Additionally, studies indicate that acute pain is the main cause of hospitalization for people with SCD of all ages; however, it occurs more often in teens and young adults [9]. Furthermore, frequent reoccurrences of acute pain are related to premature death in SCD patients over 20 years old [10]. Several factors including dehydration, extreme temperatures, infection, and low oxygen levels (high altitudes) can trigger SCD crises [11]. Another severe complication of SCD is acute chest syndrome (ACS). ACS results from infiltrates in the lungs or can also result from infections. Besides, ACS may also result in fever, chest pain, wheezing and cough symptoms following or accompanied by other acute symptoms [12]. There are numerous causes for ACS including infection, sickling, fluid overload and atelectasis caused by hypoventilation from over sedation or inadequate pain control [13].


Almost all the students were aware of SCD. Majority of the respondents demonstrated positive attitude towards SCD and had the belief that it is an inherited disease acquired from parents but not a punishment from God. In general, there was poor understanding and inadequate knowledge of SCD particularly on the pattern of inheritance.


To reduce the incidence of SCD, this study suggests effective health education for SCT and SCD in strategic places such as schools, media (radio/Television), health centers and churches to address misconceptions and increase knowledge level as well as understanding of the risks of having a child with SCD and influence personal reproductive decisions. Tertiary institutions should require students on their admission into the institution to test for their sickle cell trait so that they know their own trait before being enrolled into these institutions where they are likely to meet a life partner.


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CITE AS: Jamilu, Ibrahim Ahmad (2023). Knowledge, Beliefs and Attitude towards Sickle Cell Disease among Students of Kampala International University Jinja Teaching Site Uganda. IDOSR JOURNAL OF APPLIED SCIENCES 8(3) 15-24.