We continue to expand our programs in new sites and consolidate the gains we have made in established projects. All of this is made possible by you, our generous supporters.
North Korea. Drs. Alice Lee and David Hilmers spent a busy 9 days in the DPRK, holding clinics in 4 different cities, Hae-ju, Kae-song, Pyongsong, and Pyongyang. This visit marked the first appearance and utilization of a GeneXpert machine, the gift of a generous donor. This machine allows us to measure the quantity of hepatitis B and hepatitis C viral particles in a patient’s blood. As a result, we will have improved capacity to diagnose which patients will need hepatitis B treatment and now have the capability to treat patients with hepatitis C. With 12 weeks of therapy for hepatitis C, about 90% of those taking the medications will be cured. We started our first 50 patients on treatment for hepatitis C and now have over 2000 patients on life-saving medications for hepatitis B. This program has been successful beyond our wildest expectations, but we are always aware that the political climate can change at any time.
Tonga and Vanuatu. We are happy to report that new hepatitis B treatment programs are about to start in these two Pacific Island nations. Local program managers have been identified and infected patients have been screened. Anti-viral medications have been purchased by Hepatitis B Free to start the first patients on therapy using funds from our donors, and they will arrive soon. Our medical team will visit these countries near the start of the new year to help train local physicians.
Papua New Guinea. This continues to be one of our most challenging projects. Medications to treat hepatitis B have arrived, but lack of resources in local laboratories who are tasked with analyzing blood samples for routine tests have slowed the pace. The first patients have been started on medications, and we are considering buying some modern blood analyzers for the clinic in Popondetta to obtain lab results more quickly. Drs. Lee and Hilmers will visit Papua New Guinea later this month. This program has great potential, and after 6 years of labor in PNG, we are committed to its success.
We will continue to provide quarterly updates on these and other projects in Fiji, Timor Leste, Myanmar, and Kiribati. As always, we are indebted to you for your support.