IMAGE: Dr Phone Myint Win, Myanmar Country Representative
Reducing the burden of hepatitis C in Myanmar is the goal of a new collaboration between Burnet’s Myanmar program and the Institute’s Centres for International and Population Health.
The Head of Burnet’s Myanmar Program, Dr Phone Myint Win is hopeful that researchers from both centres can cast new light on a growing problem.
“This is a new area for Burnet in Myanmar, but the new Government has made it a priority health issue, so that’s why Burnet’s Centres for International Health and Population Health are collaborating,” Dr Phone said.
“Previously we have had cross-centre collaborations on malaria and HIV, but this is the first with hepatitis C, and it’s urgently needed because more evidence is coming out that hepatitis is a big problem in Myanmar.”
Dr Phone said a recent Department of Medical Research and Myanmar Liver Foundation survey found high levels of hepatitis B and C throughout the country.
According to the survey, the incidence of hepatitis B in the general population is about 6.5 percent, while 2.6 percent of the community is positive for hepatitis C.
Among injecting drug users, however, the rate of hepatitis C is significantly higher.
“In our drop in centres 70-80 percent of people who inject drugs (PWID) are positive for hepatitis C, so it’s a serious problem,” Dr Phone said.
Of the five main hepatitis viruses, types B and C lead to chronic diseases in hundreds of millions of people and together are the most common causes of liver cirrhosis and cancer, also causing approximately 80 percent of liver cancer deaths.
As well as hepatitis C, Dr Phone nominated HIV in PWID, maternal and child health projects in northern Shan and Magway regions, and community-based prevention and care for people with drug-resistant tuberculosis as areas of research priority.
He said Burnet Myanmar is keen to consolidate and enhance its services at a time of rapid change in the country.
“Bilateral development partners are more interested and there are new implementing partners and NGOs coming in because the new government provides legitimacy,” Dr Phone said.
“Our plan is to maintain our geographic presence, but develop a more comprehensive service delivery package to what we have now.”