We wish all our supporters a very happy New Year and a prosperous start to a new decade. We are pleased to report several significant advances in our programs and are thankful for the continued support that we have received from all of you.
Grant approved for new program in Kiribati. We recently received news that funding has been approved to begin a program to prevent maternal to child transmission of hepatitis B in pregnant women in Kiribati. This project will use anti-viral medications to lower the risk of transmission of hepatitis B to newborns from their mothers with high viral loads. In addition, the program will support testing and immunization of individuals at high risk of contracting hepatitis B. This program is funded for two years, and we hope that it will be self-sustaining thereafter.
New Pacific Island programs. The team is currently traveling to the beautiful island of Tonga to work with this country’s Ministry of Health on the initiation of a national hepatitis B treatment program. This represents the latest of a growing number of treatment projects supported by HBF that have started in the Pacific, including Kiribati, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, and East Timor. Our support includes the purchase of medications, training, and direct patient care. We are also in discussions with the WHO to provide assistance in the Solomon Islands and Samoa.
Active Projects in Myanmar. A team of 3 physicians from HBF traveled to Myanmar in January, 2020 to provide training and support for a new project in the most northern part of Myanmar. There are large numbers of patients in this area co-infected with hepatitis C and HIV. We are coordinating with our partners from Medical Action Myanmar (MAM) who have received a grant to treat these patients. HBF will provide the technical support and some of the supplies needed to carry out this program. In addition HBF will support another partner, the Myanmar Liver Foundation (MLF), on a large-scale hepatitis B vaccination program that is in progress in remote areas of Myanmar.
Progress in Papua New Guinea. A team from HBF visited our hepatitis B treatment project in Popondetta, Papua New Guinea in November, 2019. We are happy to report that the first patients are now on treatment, and new laboratory equipment is being purchased for our clinics located in Oro Province. The results of our efforts there will be presented at a conference in Indonesia in early March.
Challenges in North Korea. Our team last visited North Korea in October, 2019 with expectations to return in March and May of this year. However, the country has decided to close its borders to foreign visitors because of the corona virus outbreak. As a result, our scheduled visits are currently on hold. Fortunately, adequate supplies of medications have been delivered that will support the continued treatment of the 2000 patients who are receiving life-saving drugs.
We are looking forward to a busy and productive year. As always, we are extremely grateful for the continued support from each of you. Without your help, none of this would be possible.