Sickle Cell Awareness Month highlights importance of donor diversity

Greater diversity among blood donors critical to treating sickle cell patients

September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month, designated to raise awareness of the need for research and treatment of sickle cell disease.

An inherited blood disorder, sickle cell disease inhibits the ability of hemogloblin in red blood cells to carry oxygen. Sickle cell-impacted red blood cells have a sickle or crescent shape, which prevents them from properly moving through blood vessels and supplying oxygen to all parts of the body.

Persons with sickle cell disease can experience fatigue, strokes, episodes of intense pain, shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness and organ failure.

Sickle cell disease is the most common genetic disease in the world, reports the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation. It is most common in people of family heritage in Africa, South or Central America, the Caribbean, Mediterranean countries (such as Turkey, Greece and Italy), India, and Saudi Arabia.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the disease affects approximately 100,000 people across the United States.

Blood transfusions are a key treatment to relieve sickle cell symptoms. Sickle Cell Awareness Month draws attention to the urgency of diversity among blood donors to best meet patient needs.

America’s Blood Centers (ABC), the national organization of community-based, independent blood centers, noted that frequently transfused patients, such as people living with sickle cell disease, often require blood from donors of similar ethnic and racial backgrounds.

However, less than 20% of all blood donations currently come from diverse communities. Increasing that percentage is one of the best ways to support individuals with diseases like sickle cell, particularly as one in three African American blood donors are a viable match for a sickle cell patient.

Tessa Youngner, Sickle Cell Disease Programs Specialist at the Sickle Cell Disease Coalition, said, “There are so many ways to support the sickle cell community, but donating blood is one of the most immediate and impactful. Individuals living with sickle cell disease urgently need a safe and reliable blood supply to manage their health year-round.”

Carter BloodCare is committed to increasing awareness of the positive effects of a blood supply that mirrors the entire community.

During National Sickle Cell Awareness Month and year-round, people are urged to donate to ensure the blood supply reflects the diversity of the community.

Find a nearby Carter BloodCare donor center or mobile drive, or call 800-366-2834 to make an appointment that saves lives.

Additional resources

Sickle Cell Disease Association of America

Sickle Cell Disease Coalition

Sickle Cell Disease Foundation

Sickle Cell Association of Texas