Hepatitis B is often referred to as the silent killer. Many who have contracted hepatitis B show no symptoms of illness at first, feeling perfectly healthy until it is unfortunately too little, too late.
A viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease, over 240 million people worldwide are chronically infected with hepatitis B, according to the World Health Organisation.
Whilst Papua New Guinea has a well-developed and rather thorough vaccination program, more often than not this doesn’t extend to many remote communities.
So with that in mind, and Tuesday July 28 being World Hepatitis Day, a group of Australian’s are doing what they can to help alleviate the disease.
Hepatitis B Free is a non-profit charity consisting of a team of passionate volunteers, all looking to eradicate the disease throughout rural Papua New Guinea.
Hepatologist and Gastroenterologist, Dr. Alice Lee, started the project after treating a Papua New Guinean with hepatitis B in Sydney. Over the three-year duration of being Lee’s patient, conversations took place with the man surrounding his origins, with this in turn leading to the idea of visiting PNG to vaccinate the Barai community in Oro Province.
Three years on and many vaccinations later, the Barai community, who prior to the project had never seen a Doctor, now have two dedicated community health care workers.
All doctors and nurses who travel here to Papua New Guinea fund their own trips, with any fundraising the group undertakes going straight toward the purchase of vital supplies.
Currently the group is fundraising to assist in paying the tuition fees for two young men from Barai, who are currently in Port Moresby studying to become registered nurses.
Hepatitis B Free PNG has been such a success that the group are now providing more than just vaccinations against hep B. They’re now also helping assist with skin care and eye care, wound care and general day-to-day hygiene.
The group hopes to raise additional funds for another trip to PNG, in either April or July of 2016. We’ll keep you up to date with the fantastic work that these guys are undertaking.