Treat Patients with Life-Saving Hepatitis B Meds

by Hepatitis B Free
Treat Patients with Life-Saving Hepatitis B Meds

To our faithful supporters:

We send our very best wishes to each of you. We are hopeful that the worst of the COVID pandemic is behind us as vaccines become more widely available across the globe. We continue to be grateful for your support during these difficult times.  Despite the travel restrictions that have been in place, we have utilized the internet to keep in touch with our national hepatitis program partners to provide training and patient-specific consultations.  In addition, we have used your donations to provide additional laboratory supplies, equipment, and anti-viral medications to our partners so that they can continue treating patients with hepatitis B and C.  We continue to advocate for our patients with chronic hepatitis as the focus of attention for many countries has been on COVID over the past year.  We are working closely with other large health organizations such as the WHO to ensure that those burdened with hepatitis are not forgotten during these trying times.  The following are recent updates from some of the countries in which we provide support.

Myanmar. In addition to the COVID epidemic, the country has been deeply affected by a military takeover of the government.  Until recently we had been conducting weekly training sessions and patient consultations with our partners in Putao and Yangon who are treating patients co-infected with HIV and hepatitis C.  However, we were forced to suspend these meetings due to disruptions in communications and difficulties with patient care in these locations.  We continue to be concerned for the safety of our colleagues and hope to resume our dialogues later this month.  We have been very encouraged by the progress that has been made in this program as nearly 100 patients have been placed on treatment for hepatitis C with many more being evaluated each week.

Papua New Guinea (PNG).  PNG has recently been struck by a wave of COVID infections.  It is particularly difficult for our colleagues because there are fewer than 500 doctors in a country of almost 10 million people.  This impact of this outbreak is compounded by the complex geography of this island nation.  We continue to support our partners in Popondetta with supplies and training support and have shipped several thousand hepatitis B test kits to the main hospital in Port Moresby to be used in evaluation of pregnant women.

Tonga and Vanuatu.  We have shipped fresh supplies of hepatitis B drugs to ensure that patients on chronic treatment have a continuation of their medications.

Kiribati. We continue to hold weekly meetings with hepatitis B providers in the country to discuss cases and provide training.  Our maternal to child prevention program is making steady progress and we have been helping the national hepatitis program develop a new long-term hepatitis B national policy.  A fresh supply of anti-viral drugs for current and new patients has been ordered and should arrive in time to prevent a lapse in the supply of medications.

North Korea.  There has been essentially no news from our partners in North Korea since the pandemic begins.  There are reports of widespread economic difficulties, so we continue to keep our patients and our colleagues in our thoughts and prayers.

Thank you again for your faithful support of our project.  We look forward to the day when personal contact with our partners and patients can begin anew.

Best wishes to all.

David

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To our supporters,

2020 has been a year that has presented enormous challenges to every country in the world as well as to our families and to each of us individually.  Nearly everyone has been touched personally by the pandemic in some way or has had family members or friends who have been ill.  COVID-19 has dominated the news and the attention of medical researchers even while diseases such as viral hepatitis continue to affect hundreds of millions of people across the globe. Unfortunately, travel restrictions have hindered our efforts to provide comprehensive programs of education, training, diagnostics, and treatment in developing countries where we serve. 

Our largest treatment program in North Korea is currently on hold as a result of a total travel ban into the country and lack of teleconferencing capability.  We are hopeful that the supplies of medications and equipment that were stockpiled will suffice until we can once again resume our trips.  The training that our team has been able to give to North Korean doctors, nurses, and lab technicians gives us confidence that they have the skills to carry on.

We have brighter news in other projects.  In Myanmar your contributions aided the successful completion of a vaccination program with our partners, the Myanmar Liver Foundation.  In northern Myanmar, our specialists lead weekly training sessions via teleconference and hold discussions about patient care with national physicians.  There are currently about 50 patients co-infected with HIV and hepatitis C who receive treatment in and around the city of Putao. We maintain regular support through teleconferncing for our partners in the Pacific Islands, including Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, and Kiribati.  We have been encouraged by the recent arrival of tenofovir in Tonga, where patients can now be started on treatment.

We want to wish you a blessed holiday season and a prosperous 2021.  Yes, 2020 has been a challenging year, and we join you in your prayers for a healthier and safer year to come with the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines.  We hope to be able to report a resumption in travel to our project sites by this time next year. From each of us at Hepatitis B Free, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your continued support during these difficult times.

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We are grateful to all of our supporters. You have stood by us during these difficult times.  We hope that each of you has been taking appropriate precautions and has stayed healthy.

Despite travel restrictions that have curtailed our ability to visit our far-flung projects, we have continued to stay busy using your donations and grant funds to press forward.  Some of the recent highlights include:

-Hepatitis B training in Kiribati.  Our team participates in regular training sessions for health care workers and provides consultations for clinic doctors on individual patients.

-Maternal to child hepatitis B transmission prevention program in Kiribati.  We are making slow progress by providing viral load testing for expectant mothers and hope to start treatment soon in pregnant women who meet criteria for medication.  Funding for this program is provided through a grant.  We are coordinating our work with our program director in Kiribati.

-Provision of tenofovir in the South Pacific.  We have purchased and shipped tenofovir to treat hepatitis B in new programs in Vanuatu and Tonga.  We will be monitoring closely the progress made in these countries.

-Treatment of hepatitis C in northern Myanmar.  This project has been funded by an external donor and will begin shortly in Putao, Myanmar.  It will target primarily patients affected by drug abuse and HIV.  HepBFree will provide training and consultation support.

-Academic scholarship.  We feel that it is important to provide "lessons learned" with the academic community and to share data that we have collected on individuals infected with hepatitis.  We have two papers that have been accepted for publication in World Health Organization journals.  One describes our treatment program in Kiribati and the other provides epidemiologic data about the rates of hepatitis B infection in individuals living in a province in Papua New Guinea.  We will provide abstracts of the papers on our website.

Thank you once again for your continued support.  

With our very best wishes,

The Hepatitis B Free team

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HBF with clinic nurses in the Kingdom of Tonga
HBF with clinic nurses in the Kingdom of Tonga

To all of our supporters:

The COVID-19 pandemic has proundly affected each of our lives, whether we have suffered from infection or not.  Many of us have a friend or family member who has been ill from the virus, and we have all experienced the social and economic challenges that have changed our world.

Hepatitis B Free has likewise been affected.  Some of our team have been directly involved with COVID-19 patient care in Australia and in the USA.  Our ability to visit our projects has been entirely curtailed by travel bans on international travel by our home countries and by the countries in which we work.  In North Korea shipments of essential supplies such as medications and lab equipment have been halted because of quarantines on imports.

Despite these limitations, we continue to press ahead.   We are holding regular teleconferences to train and discuss cases with our colleagues in other countries.  We are pressing ahead with donations of hepatitis medications to ensure that there is no disruption in the distribution of life-saving drugs to our patients.  Where needed, we have arranged for transfesr of medications from one country to another if supplies run low.

We are pleased that a paper describing our program in Kiribati has been accepted for publication.  We will post a copy on our website once it is in print.  We have submitted another paper, currently under review, which describes the prevalence of chronic hepatitis B in Oro Province, Papua New Guinea, where we have a project.

We are laying the foundaton to start our trial of tenofovir to prevent maternal to child transmission in pregnant women in Kiribati.  Once we are able to travel again to Kiribati, we hope to have this important study underway.

We are indebted to you for your support, especially during these difficult time.  Please know that we endeavor to use 100% of donations towards direct patient care.  Please stay safe and healthy.

Best wishes,

David C. Hilmers

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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.

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Organization Information

Hepatitis B Free

Location: Linley Point - Australia
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @hepatitisbfree
Project Leader:
Alice Lee
Linley Point, Australia
$36,682 raised of $95,000 goal
 
192 donations
$58,318 to go
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