Greetings to friends and supporters of Hepatitis B Free.
As always, we are very grateful for your encouragement, gifts and prayers. We see encouraging signs that travel around the world is opening up again. It is too early to say that the worst of the COVID epidemic is behind us, but greater understanding of the disease itself, improved therapeutics and increased vaccination rates make us hopeful for a better future.
We would like to provide you with a few country-specific updates:
Kiribati. We are currently planning a technical trip to the main island of South Tarawa and some of the outer islands in the October-November timeframe. The timing will be dependent on availability of our counterparts in Kiribati and the quarantine requirements for COVID. Since our last report, our team has participated in the creation of the new Kiribati National Hepatitis Action Plan which is awaiting final approval by the government. A new electronic medical record system, Tamanu, has been proposed to link hepatitis programs across the various island chains that make up the country. It is hoped that software, hardware, and training for this system will be supported by the Australian government.
Papua New Guinea. Our hepatitis activities at Siroga clinic have centered around case-based lectures, re-supply of hepatitis B medications, and training for laboratory personnel. We are excited about possible opportunities to begin projects in the very remote Central Highlands region, the capital of Port Moresby, and Milne Bay. A shipment of donated anti-fungal medications that treat one of the most common local skin diseases, called “grille.” is being sent. We are planning on making onsite visits to our PNG projects early next year.
Myanmar. Our colleagues who work in the Putao project in northern Myanmar continue to amaze us with their dedication despite a very difficult political situation. We have biweekly patient discussions via Zoom to provide consultations for over 300 individuals who are infected with hepatitis C and are being treated. It is unlikely that our teams will be able to visit for the foreseeable future, but we plan to continue our close collaboration via teleconference.
North Korea. As many of you may know, North Korea is in the midst of what is presumed to be a large outbreak of COVID-19. We are deeply concerned about the situation in this nation because of the increased vulnerability that we have seen during our patient encounters, the lack of medical infrastructure, and the absence of immunity (either natural or through vaccinations). Many of our patients whom we were treating are immunocompromised due to hepatitis. We are hopeful that this unfolding disaster will motivate the leadership to reach out to the world and accept humanitarian aid.
We have deep gratitude for your continued support, without which we could not continue to provide the services that we do. We send our best wishes to each of you for good health and much joy in your lives.
David C. Hilmers