Haemophilia causes dangerous haemorrhages internally and into the joints and muscles, resulting in severe pain and eventually causing crippled limbs. It leads to interrupted education and eventual difficulties in obtaining and keeping employment. Frustration and depression so engendered can be the cause of social difficulties.
Haemophilia was known in Biblical times, and more interest is evidenced in the fate of the Romanoffs of Russia and the Bourbons of Spain. The incidence is estimated at approximately 0.01% of any population. In addition, no community or family is guaranteed immunity, since haemophilia may arise by mutation as well as inheritance.
The condition demands medical and social attention out of all proportion to its frequency, placing considerable financial demands on both affected families and Provincial health services. Haemophilia is not curable. Effective treatment has become available only in the last two decades, mainly due to the improvement of technology to extract the relevant protein from donated blood and administering it to the affected individuals. Unfortunately, this has brought about an additional worry to persons with haemophilia, who in their treatment necessarily have to consume large quantities of blood and blood related products. This has come about by the advent of HIV and Aids. Some persons with haemophilia were infected with the HIV virus, due to a small percentage of donated blood having been contaminated. Although the screening, testing and modern methods of sterilisation of all donated blood prior to usage, has improved to such an extent that no case of infection is known since these methods have been employed, the thought does place additional social strain on the families concerned.
A related condition, Von Willebrands disease, also occurs, and this condition manifests itself in both males and females. Its incidence and effect on lives of those affected are not usually as severe as is the case with haemophilia.
In September 2004, a national gathering was held in Maseru, Lesotho and the Haemophilia Association of Lesotho came into being and shortly thereafter was admitted to the associate member of the World Federation of Haemophilia. The Association is comprised of 11 elected executive committee members, affected Patients and their Families, Healthcare Professionals and volunteers. The Association has as its objectives:
- The general welfare of persons with haemophilia and other bleeding disorders in Lesotho is the main concern of the association.
- a) Every effort shall be made to provide comprehensive care within the available resources.
- b) To promote interests of persons living with haemophilia and similar conditions.
- To provide scholarships, bursaries and awards for further studies, research and teaching to persons with haemophilia on such conditions as the executive committee may decide under the resources available.
- To strive to facilitate adequate treatment facilities and access to treatment products of haemophilia at the best financial dispensation possible. To this end the association will support the establishment of treatment centres that comply with the requirements of the World Federation of Haemophilia (WFH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) BY facilitating training workshops for health medicalstaff. The association will support those centres working towards this compliance.
- To strive to maintain the level of medical expertise in the treatment centres by supporting the training of medical staff through attendance at international conferences and visits to comprehensive treatment centres abroad.
- To actively raise funds and where possible and within the means of the association, financially assist persons with bleeding disorders in need of such assistance.
- Intensive effort shall be made to create public awareness on haemophilia and other bleeding disorders complications.
- The Haemophilia Association of Lesotho shall serve as a link with national and international institutes, societies and associations related to haemophilia and other bleeding disorders. It will also help Queen Elizabeth II Hospital and other hospitals in the region to establish similar links.
- Periodic seminars, workshops and conferences shall be organised as part of continuing education to care providers in order to improve haemophilia care.
- Promote communication and exchange of information between patients, families and caregivers.