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Community Blood Services Seeks More Minority Blood and Bone Marrow Donors During National Minority Donor Awareness Week

August 1-8, 2012


Community Blood Services is trying to raise awareness during National Minority Donor Awareness Week of the important need for more diverse volunteer blood and bone marrow donors from within the minority communities it serves.

This is the 16th year National Minority Donor Awareness Week is being observed, beginning August 1. The week was originally created to increase awareness of the need for more organ, eye, and tissue donors among minorities. Changing demographics are also increasing the need for more minority donations of blood, according to America’s Blood Centers (ABC), North America's network of non-profit community blood centers which includes Community Blood Services.

"Blood centers are facing an ever-growing challenge of maintaining a diverse blood supply so this is a good time to encourage individual donors and community organizations, churches and businesses to help us raise awareness in their communities about the need for minority blood and marrow donors," said Patrice Foresman, director of donor recruitment at Community Blood Services.

"Every 2.5 seconds someone needs blood…it could be a friend, a family member, or maybe even you," Foresman said. She noted the best blood for a chronically ill patient requiring multiple transfusions throughout their lifetime, such as a sickle cell patient, is likely to come from a donor of the same ethnic background. Approximately 100,000 people in the U.S. have sickle cell disease and require regular transfusions. Many of those are African Americans and Hispanics, Foresman noted.

In addition, Foresman said more diverse donors are also needed to register on the National Marrow Donor Program’s Be The Match bone marrow registry to increase minority patients’ chances of finding matches. In the case of African Americans, for example, she said only six out of 10 African Americans currently find the matches they need on the registry

"It is so important to educate people because more minority donors mean more lifesaving blood and stem cell products for those in their community who need them," Foresman said. She explained that some ethnicities have rare or special blood traits which may be found predominately or even exclusively, in persons of that ethnicity. African American donors, for instance, provide blood with unique antigens, which can mean lifesaving treatments for people battling not only sickle cell, but leukemia and other diseases.

She said once the blood center identifies these very special donors after they donate it invites them to join its rare donor program, BloodLinks, which encourages those donors to donate routinely so their special blood is available for patients who need it.

Foresman said more than half African Americans and Hispanics also have the blood type most requested by hospitals, Type O blood. Type O negative donors are "universal" donors who can donate to any patient in need regardless of their type so it is important to constantly replenish the Type O negative supply.

Foresman encouraged individual donors of all ethnicities who have questions about blood donation to call 866-228-1500 or visit www.communitybloodservices.com and to donate at a convenient donor center or blood drive in their area during National Minority Donor Awareness Week. Donors also can call 866-228-1500 to schedule their donation appointments or click here to schedule online.

To register as a marrow donor, sign up with The HLA Registry at Community Blood Services, a Be The Match member center. Visit www.bethematch.org and fill out your registration form online using promo code "DC2012" to get your cheek swab kit. You also click here can call 800-336-3363 to find out how to sponsor a lifesaving bone marrow drive with your community organization, church or business.

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