What is Albinism?  

Living with Albinism.pdf  

Albinism is an inherited condition, which causes lack of dark pigment of the skin, hair and eyes due to the lack of melanin produced in the body, making those affected in the Pacific visibly very different from their dark-skinned peers.  This can cause social isolation and stigma partly due to a lack of understanding of the condition. 

It causes a very high risk of skin cancers and usually very poor vision. Children with albinism have normal intelligence and no other health issues, relating from albinism, therefore if their educational problems with low vision are addressed and they are taught how to look after their skin they can lead full and productive lives.  

In ITaukei language people with albinism are called “Rea”.   

How is it Inherited?

We all carry two copies of an inherited unit (called a gene), one from our father and one from our mother, which produces melanin. There are two forms of this gene. The “A” form produces melanin, but the other “a” form does not.

Parents who have a child with albinism are both carriers of the “a” gene. When a child inherits the “a” gene from both their mother and father, they will have albinism. Sometimes only one child in a family is born with albinism, sometimes there are more. The chance of this happening is 1 in 4 (25%) for each pregnancy when both parents are carriers of the albinism gene. Albinism is no one’s fault.

Albinism is a genetic condition that you are born with and will last all your life. It is not related to anything bad that happened during pregnancy. It is not a sickness or a disease and so cannot be passed on to others by contact or touching. 

People are born with albinism in countries around the world. 

  

Albinism Myths vs. Realities

Myths are stories which are used to explain things we do not understand. They contribute strongly to stigma against people living with albinism. Challenging these myths with information and knowledge may help to decrease this stigma.

Myth 

Albinism is a punishment or a curse from the gods or ancestral spirits due to wrongs done in the family.

Reality

Albinism is a genetic condition that is passed on from parents to children. Many people are carriers of this recessive gene. Albinism is not a curse.

Myth

The skin of a person with albinism is immature and underdeveloped. 

Reality

People with albinism are not “missing” a layer of skin. The structure of the skin in some-one with albinism is the same as anyone else, except that it contains very little or no pigment.

Myth

People with albinism cannot see during the day but see well at night.

Reality

People with albinism have vision difficulties due to lack of ‘melanin’ pigmentation in the retina. They can see during the day and also at night.

Myth

People with albinism are not intelligent.

Reality

Persons with albinism are intelligent and also perform well academically like other normally pigmented people. There are teachers, lawyers, politicians and musicians who are living with albinism.

Myth

A person with albinism cannot have children with normal skin colour.

Reality

A person with albinism can give birth to children with normal skin colour if his/her partner is not a carrier of the albinism gene.

Myth

People with albinism are asexual

Reality

People with albinism have sexual desires just like any-body else. They can have relationships, get married and have children.

Myth

That the mother slept with a white man.

Reality

Children born with albinism may look ‘white’ due to absent or reduced pigmentation but are not products of cross race sexual relationships.

  

  

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