Red blood cells carry markers called antigens on their surface that determine one’s blood type. There are more than 600 known antigens associated with blood types A and B. Certain blood types are unique to specific ethnic groups. Therefore it is essential to have a diverse donor population to match the needs of a diverse patient population.
For example, U-negative and Duffy-negative blood types are unique to the Black-American community. Sickle cell disease, a condition that is common among people of African descent, sometimes require blood transfusions to treat complications related to this genetically inherited disorder. Patients with U-negative and Duffy-negative blood should receive blood from donors in the Black-American community. By using this genotypic (genetically close blood type) people living with sickle cell disease are at a lower risk of developing complications from transfusion therapy. For this reason, it is extremely important to increase the volume of available blood donors from all ethnic groups.
Different ethnic and racial groups also have different frequencies of the main blood types in their populations. For example, approximately 45 percent of Caucasians are Type O, but 51 percent of African Americans and 57 percent of Hispanics are Type O. Type O is routinely in short supply and in high demand by hospitals – both because it is the most common blood type and because Type O negative blood, in particular, is the universal type needed for emergency transfusions.
Minority and diverse populations, therefore, play a critical role in meeting the constant need for blood.
Source: The American Red Cross
DONORS & DIVERSITY
People come in different ethnicities and blood types. The vast majority of blood types fall into one of the three major groups (A, B and O). However, for a small percentage of the population, there are people who have the rare combination of AB type blood. Finding someone else with the same rare AB blood type can be as difficult as searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack.
Why Your Donation Matters
You do make a difference!
While people of color experience the same life-threatening emergencies that require blood transfusions as Caucasians, people of African, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Asian, and Latin American descent living with inherited blood disorders unique to their ancestries like Sickle Cell Disease and Cooley’s Anemia (Thalassemia Major) are in need of blood transfusions monthly.
As with every individual, the most compatible transfusion is likely to come from someone of the same ethnic and genetic background. Donated blood that closely matches a patient's blood type is less likely to be rejected by their body and have fewer complications after a transfusion. Furthermore, genetically-similar blood is superior for people who need repeated transfusions for conditions like SCD and Cooley’s Anemia.
While there is a need for all types of blood donations, donations from people of color are crucial. Of the 5 percent of the general population that donates blood, only 1 out of 10 are Black American or Latino. Daily, thousands of Black Americans and Latinos face an alarming fact - there is only a limited supply of genotypic blood available for them and their family members when they need it.