When it comes to blood donations, researchers have found that African Americans are under-represented among donors and that minority donors, in general, are less likely to become regular donors. African American individuals make up 13% of the U.S. population and 23% of the Houston population, but less than 3% of blood donors.
Diversity is crucial to saving lives
African-American blood donors hold the power to save other African-Americans in need of a blood transfusion. That’s because donors with genetically-similar blood are more likely to be a match for patients from the same ethnic background, and for conditions like sickle cell disease (SCD), which primarily affects African-Americans.
Blood from an African American donor to an African American recipient is more likely to match. That’s why it’s so important that we have a diverse set of donors who match with a diverse set of patients in area hospitals. Think of it this way: your blood type depends on your parents’ blood types, so you’re more likely to be a match with relatives and people who have a similar ancestry to you.
When patients get blood that doesn’t match their own, their immune system fights it by developing antibodies, which can be harmful in future transfusions. It is crucial for patients who receive multiple transfusions in their lifetime to receive blood that closely matches their own. Additionally, people of African and black descent are more likely to have a rare blood type. Because the origins of sickle cell traces back to places like South America and Africa, we particularly are appealing to those with ancestry from those areas to donate blood—REGULARLY!