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Exposing the myths of albinism

Written by Adele Schormann
People with albinism are at risk of isolation because the condition is misunderstood.

Albinism is a condition that reduces the amount of melanin pigment formed in the skin, hair or eyes.Whilst many cultures believe that people who have albinism have magic powers, Vuk’uzenzele presents the facts about this genetic condition.

According to the Albinism Society of South Africa, albinism is an inherited genetic condition that reduces the amount of melanin pigment formed in the skin, hair or eyes.

This means that a person is unable to produce normal colouring and their skin is light or pale, with freckles, whilst their body hair can vary from white to yellow or light brown. They may also have sensitive eyes or be visually impaired.

Albinism is not contagious, it is inherited. A child with albinism receives the defective gene from both parents and it is common for parents with normal skin colour to have a child with albinism.

Albinism occurs in all racial and ethnic groups throughout the world.

Setting the record straight

Nomasonto Mazibuko, the founder of the Albinism Society of South Africa, recently addressed various myths about the condition.

She used an example of a person with albinism standing in a queue at the supermarket and said that people stare, which makes the person very uncomfortable.

“There are myths that people with albinism do not die, they disappear, and if one has sexual intercourse with a person with albinism, their HIV status is cured,” said Mazibuko.

“Another myth is that when you drink the blood of a person with albinism, you will have supernatural powers and very good luck. There is even a belief that if you chop up the body parts of a person with albinism and take them to a witchdoctor, you will have luck,” she added.

 Most people turn a blind eye to people with albinism.

“We need to have more education  and advocacy programmes to address the issues facing people with albinism.”

Mazibuko believes  that these myths will cease to exist once the older generation, who clings to them, have passed away.

“This is a generation gap issue. Gradually and eventually it will come to an end. In the past, murderers could get away with what they had done because people believed that those with albinism disappear. Because they were trafficked or killed, no one would tell the story. But the police are working day and night to track down these killers,” said Mazibuko.

Did you know?

That due to the sensitivity of the skin, a person with albinism can develop sores that could be cancerous? It is important for people with albinism to stay out of the sun from 11:00 to 13:00 and to apply sun lotion.