Our volunteers continued their work across the Pacific during the past 3 months and we are happy to report the progress that has been made. We are excited to share that anti-viral medications purchased by Hepatitis B Free have been shipped to Fiji and Papua New Guinea.
Vanuatu and Fiji
Dr Alice Lee visited the island nation of Vanuatu in July to explore the implementation of a hepatitis B treatment program with members of the Ministry of Health. There appears to be enthusiasm for a new program in Vanuatu, and we are investigating grant opportunities. Dr Lee continued on to Fiji where she delivered a number of lectures to local physicians. Anti-viral medications that were purchased by Hepatitis B Free have arrived and patients will soon be started on treatment.
In July, Sue Huntley and Aidan Foy went on their second trip this year to Kiribati. They were happy to meet the new Hepatitis Project Officer. They found that a number of their recommendations from the previous trip had been adopted, including increasing hepatitis clinic time and the addition of a dedicated hepatitis clinic nurse. The clinics that they attended were functioning smoothly, and more patients have been referred for treatment.
The trip corresponded to World Hepatitis Day, and the Kiribati Health Promotions Department organized activities including health fairs in which hepatitis information booklets were distributed, question and answer sessions were conducted, and point of care hepatitis testing was performed. Patients testing positive were referred to the hepatitis clinic for treatment.
Sue and Aidan were able to visit one of the neighboring islands, Abiang, for the first time. It is about two hours by speed boat from the main island of Tarawa. They evaluated the health care facilities on the island to see if a hepatitis B treatment program can be supported in the outer islands. The local health care providers are very enthusiastic about starting such a project.
Papua New Guinea
We were pleased to have an infectious disease physician from the United Kingdom, Dr Luke Mair, spend three months volunteering in Popondetta. He was an extremely valuable asset to both the local clinics and to Popondetta General Hospital. Shortly after Luke left PNG, anti-viral medications purchased by Hepatitis B Free arrived in-country, and patients who have already been screened will be started on life-saving therapy. A return trip by our volunteers is scheduled for later this year.
Drs. Alice and Lee and David Hilmers will be traveling to North Korea in October to continue the work of Hepatitis B Free there. We currently are working in clinics in five different cities and have nearly 2000 patients on therapy with more being added on each trip.
Once again we thank you for your tremendous support of our work. We can see the difference that your generous contributions are making in the lives of those to whom we reach.
Reported by David Hilmers
Photos by Sue Huntley