During Sickle Cell Awareness Month, the American Red Cross has launched Joined by Blood, a fall-focused component of the Sickle Cell Initiative, to help improve the health outcomes of those with sickle cell disease through impactful community-based partnerships.
In September and October, the Red Cross is teaming up with community organizations like the National Pan-Hellenic Council – known as the Divine Nine – and others to host blood drives and inspire donors who are Black to give blood to support people living with sickle cell.
Sickle cell disease impacts more than 100,000 people across the country, most of whom are of African descent. Regular blood transfusions are critical to managing extreme pain and life-threatening complications faced by many. Unfortunately, they may develop an immune response against blood from donors that is not closely matched to their own. However, because most individuals who are Black have unique structures on their red blood cells that are not often found in other donor populations, 1 in 3 African American blood donors is a match for people with sickle cell disease.
The Red Cross is thrilled to have the support of preeminent organizations like the NAACP, 100 Black Men of America, Inc., The Links, Incorporated, Jack and Jill of America, the National Pan-Hellenic Council as well as others to expand blood donation opportunities in Black communities and to grow the number of blood donors who are Black to help patients in need, especially those batting sickle cell disease.
Seasonal changes can trigger pain crises for those battling sickle cell – possibly increasing the need for lifesaving blood transfusions. As summer ends, book a time to give blood by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). As a thank-you, all who come to give through Sept. 18 will get an exclusive Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last.
About sickle cell disease
Sickle cell disease distorts soft, round blood cells and turns them hard and crescent-shaped, which can cause severe pain. “When cells harden, they can get caught in blood vessels, potentially leading to stroke and organ failure,” says Dr. Gary Bachowski, Regional Medical Director for American Red Cross Blood Services. “Transfusions provide healthy blood cells, delivering oxygen and allowing blood vessels to remain open, minimizing crises patients with sickle cell disease may face.”
About the Sickle Cell Initiative
To help ensure patients have the blood products they need, the American Red Cross is working with partners in the Black community to grow the number of blood donors who are Black through the sickle cell initiative, which launched in 2021. In the first year of the initiative, the number of first-time African American blood donors who gave with the Red Cross increased by 60%. To learn more, visit RedCrossBlood.org/OurBlood.
Testing for sickle cell trait
At a time when health information has never been more important, the Red Cross is screening all blood, platelet and plasma donations from self-identified African American donors for the sickle cell trait. This additional screening will provide Black donors with an additional health insight and help the Red Cross identify compatible blood types more quickly to help patients with sickle cell disease. Donors can expect to receive sickle cell trait screening results, if applicable, within one to two weeks through the Red Cross Blood Donor App and the online donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org.