The first registered liver foundation in Myanmar, which focuses on awareness raising, prevention, training and policy advocacy for liver-related illnesses including Hepatitis infections.
Hepatitis B vaccinations have been ramped up around the country over the past 10 months under a dual Liver Foundation and Ministry of Health project.
The inoculation scheme, which began in August 2015, has so far covered around 1.5 million people. An end date has not yet been decided, but the program aims for comprehensive coverage, according to the Liver Foundation. “We will inoculate everybody in the country against hepatitis B together with the Ministry of Health,” said Dr Khin Pyone Kyi, president of the Liver Foundation, Myanmar. A nationwide survey conducted in 2015 showed that nearly 5 million people in Myanmar suffer from a form of the hepatitis viruses. It was estimated that about 3.3 million people suffer from hepatitis B, which is transmitted through bodily fluids and attacks the liver, possibly leading to serious, chronic disease like scarring and liver cancer. The Liver Foundation vaccine drive is open to everyone in the country, although the national guidelines recommend infants are inoculated. “We have no age limitation for providing the vaccine in our program, except newborn babies. The program aims to cover the whole country. People who want to get the hepatitis B vaccine can contact our foundation,” said Dr Khin Pyone Kyi. The foundation is also educating local charities about hepatitis B because those infected with the disease can pass the infection on to others through blood or bodily fluids, Dr Khin Pyone Kyi said. “Hepatitis B can be transmitted easily from person to person. The disease can also be transmitted from mother to baby. Hepatitis B infection can happen at any age. Therefore, we aim to control and protect people against the disease,” she said. Last year’s survey found that the highest prevalence of HB infection was 12.4 percent in Yangon Region and the lowest was 3.3pc in Magwe Region. The high point of hepatitis B infection, 7.36pc, was found in the 30-39 age group. The national program includes a pentavalent inoculation administered to infants are the age of two months. The program, which was launched in 2012, is supported by the GAVI Alliance and has so far covered around 75 percent of the country.
Let’s answer the call of our duty. There was a poor, humble doctor who left his family and three young children in Monywa, a small city in upper Burma, to pursue a post-graduate medical training in the capital Yangon. The living expenses were too high for him to support his family in the big city with his meager monthly salary of 1500 Kyats, equivalent to $60. But his love for medicine did not stop him from learning and teaching without extra earnings. There were medical students, interns, and post-graduate doctors who came and studied under his guidance and teachings. Despite being cash strapped, he would buy books for studying. As said by Desiderius Erasmus, “[when] I get a little money I buy books, and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.” Those who knew Dr. Than Sitt can see exactly how this quote applies to him. He was an advocate for patients’ rights and medical professionals’ ethics. This moral standard kept him at length from a comfortable life but nothing short of pursuing his thirst for learning and teaching medicine. He had a passion for keeping up-to-date with the never-ending advancements of medical science and the expansion of medical technology and patient care in Myanmar. His dream was fulfilled when he was selected for training at the Royal College of Physicians in United Kingdom. He brought home advanced medical knowledge and skills and he specialized in hepatology. He was not content with leading the Hepatology Department. He set his sight on eradicating an evil threat to millions of lives: Viral Hepatitis, a precursor of hepatocellular carcinoma.The trigger for the eradication of viral hepatitis B and C was set off after witnessing thousands of viral hepatitis patients, mostly from rural areas, succumb to hepatocellular carcinoma. Their mode of transmission was very common in the under-developed world: improper sterilization of needles and medical equipment. He knew that the education, awareness of the danger of transmission and consequences of the disease, and training of medical professions to implement a simple yet crucial measure of sterile technique would be fundamental steps in the fight against the Viral Hepatitis B and C. He set-up the Liver Foundation and laid the ground and guidelines for education, counseling, early diagnosis by a cost-sharing lab, vaccination and cost sharing treatments, community mobilization, and training of medical staff and research. The task was daunting and the ambition was paramount. He led the Liver Foundation and materialized the ambition to activities through fund raising, seminars, news media and social networks locally in collaboration with World Hepatitis Alliance, World Health Organization Regional Team, and pharmaceutical companies. Show More
The vision of Dr. Than Sitt will continue to be an unwavering mission. His dream of eradicating the viral hepatitis will be materialized by the believers and achievers. The opening of the first clinic, the Than-Sitt Charity Clinic, has been initiated under the leadership of Dr. Khin Pyone Kyi, the president of Myanmar Liver Foundation. He whispered the last call. Let’s answer the call of our duty.