Many developing countries have challenges providing their bleeding disorders communities with adequate support. This is especially true of Uganda—a country that not only struggles with access to care, but also with commonly-held beliefs that don’t necessarily have any sound medical basis.
In Uganda, a widely-held idea is that many common childhood diseases are caused by baby or primary teeth colloquially known as “false teeth”. Many parents bring their sick children to traditional healers who often extract the primary teeth using unsafe methods to “cure” a condition. The result of this practice is a high infant mortality rate in the general population—and an even higher rate in the bleeding disorders community.
Helen Adongo, a resident of the Kole district in Uganda, recalls when her daughter brought her baby to a healer to have this “false tooth” removed when he was six months old. The baby bled profusely during the procedure and died. Her daughter’s second child died in a similar way. The family choose to not have the “false tooth” removed for their third child, however as he grew up any slight injury would lead to severe bleeding. That child is now otherwise healthy after being referred to Mulago Hospital to be tested for hemophilia.
Komakech Lawrence–a young man diagnosed with a bleeding disorder—recalls that before he was diagnosed, his symptoms were sometimes seen as the result of witchcraft. On one occasion when he was suffering from swelling in a joint, he was taken to a church instead of a hospital on the advice of locals. When his condition continued to deteriorate, he was finally taken to a medical facility for care. His mother continued to suspect witchcraft for a long time before eventually embracing the counsel of the medical team. Lawrence is now faring well.