While high rates of sickle cell anemia and lupus prevail in the black community, often requiring blood transfusions, African Americans currently donate less than one percent of the country’s blood supply. This shortage has advocates sounding the call and asking African-American lawmakers to help to recruit more blood donors from the black community.
In Illinois, the Coalition of Community Blood Centers and the General Assembly’s Black Caucus have launched a campaign called “Make Every Drop Count,” an effort to raise awareness about the need for blood donations among blacks according to the Chicago Tribune. The American Red Cross says the two most common reasons why people don’t give blood is that they “Never thought about it” or they “Don’t like needles.” But in the black community these excuses are doing more harm than good.
Sickle cell disease affects more than 80,000 people in the U.S., 98 percent of whom are African American. Since the only cure, a bone marrow transplant, can be difficult to see through, sickle cell patients often rely on frequent blood transfusions, sometimes as often as every few weeks. If these transfusions come from donors of the same ethnic background, there is less chance of complications after the patient receives blood.
For lupus patients, low blood platelet count and anemia are common risk factors. Pregnant women with lupus are also three times more likely to need a transfusion during pregnancy than women without the disease, The New York Times reports.
Without the life saving blood for these treatments thousands of people will die each year. The “Make Every Drop” campaign may be going on in Illinois, but you can start your own campaign in your hometown by encouraging your friends and family to donate blood. Healthy donors can participate in making donations every 56 days, so head over to your local hospital or donation center, roll up a sleeve and make every drop count!
Do you donate blood?