America Wants Your Blood, Black People

Rare blood antigens and sickle cell anemia have many African-Americans in need of transfusions, but the supply is low.

Posted: 03/05/2012 08:00 AM EST

America wants your blood, Black people. That may sound ominous, but it’s actually the opposite. African-Americans are in severe need of more African-American blood donors. And going into a local Red Cross and opening up a vein could be one of the most benevolent things you’ve done in weeks.

The problem is this: African-Americans are far more likely than other races of people to have certain rare blood antigens. Blacks are also more likely to have diseases like sickle cell anemia. These blood traits frequently require blood transfusions, which, if they’re done with blood from white people or Latinos, are more difficult. An African-American patient with sickle cell is far less likely to reject blood from an African-American donor. But that smooth transfusion process can’t happen if there is no supply of Black blood.

Currently, African-American blood comprises less than 1 percent of the nation’s blood supply. This makes it particularly hard for Black patients in need to get blood their bodies won’t reject.

Donating is easy, fast, safe and, if you donate plasma, possibly lucrative. It’s also a simple way to put your support behind the community and help save or better some Black people’s lives.

To that end, in Illinois, the Illinois Coalition of Community Blood Centers is partnering with the state’s General Assembly Black Caucus to try to increase African-American blood donors. The campaign will be called “Make Every Drop Count,” and its supporters say its success could be the difference between life and death for some patients in need.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

BET Health News - We go beyond the music and entertainment world to bring you important medical information and health-related tips of special relevance to Blacks in the U.S. and around the world.

(Photo: Vanessa Carvhallo/NewsFree/LatinContent/Getty Images)

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