American Red Cross sees desperate need for diversity in blood donors

KOLD News at 10 p.m. on Saturdays
Published: Aug. 7, 2022 at 1:16 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The national blood shortage is critical across the nation.

With a decrease in donors, it leads to a less diverse blood pool for the people who depend on it.

“It’s dire and I think making more people aware that we need people of color to donate blood is crucial,” said Board Chair of the Southern Arizona Chapter of the American Red Cross MaRico Tipppett.

A blood donation could be the difference between life or death for some, but donations are extremely low. American Red Cross is looking for more people to donate, especially people of color.

Caucasian people make up the vast majority of donors in the United States, while minority donors account for only about 25%. Tippett said, people of color have different antigens in their blood.

“Blood type is one thing, but there are specific markers called antigens that are in your blood. These antigens are specific to your race and ethnicity and there are over 600 of these different antigens.”

He said without enough minority donors with these antigens, it means there may not be a precise match for minority patients.

“It’s even more critical for minorities with diseases such as sickle cell, that need a higher match of a donor to get the blood they need.”

According to the CDC, one in 13 African Americans are born with sickle cell and about 100,000 across the U.S. have the disease. There is no widely used cure, but blood transfusions are one of the most critical treatments.

“They have to have three to four transfusions a year and if they don’t have the blood type that they need, then they can’t get that transfusion. They’ll have to continue to live in pain on a daily basis,” Tippett explains.

Tippett believes the reason that not many people donate is because of a lack of awareness and education.

The blood shortage is a critical situation, and he said it takes a community effort to continue to save lives through donations.

The Red Cross needs donors, but they are also looking for businesses and organizations to host blood drives. You can find more information by clicking here.

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