As Sickle Cell Awareness Month kicks off this September, the American Red Cross is teaming up with organizations in the Black community to rally blood donors who are Black to support patients with sickle cell disease. Sickle cell disease is the most common inherited blood disorder in the U.S., mostly affecting patients of African descent who may require frequent blood transfusions throughout their lifetime. Seasonal changes can trigger pain crises for those battling sickle cell disease — possibly increasing the need for lifesaving blood transfusions.
One in 3 African American blood donors are a match for people with sickle cell disease. That’s why the Red Cross is working with trusted organizations including the National Pan-Hellenic Council — also known as the Divine Nine, comprised of historically Black fraternities and sororities — through special Joined by Blood partnerships in September and October.
“The National Pan-Hellenic Council is proud to partner with the American Red Cross for its Joined by Blood effort to grow the number of blood donors who are Black and help patients with sickle cell disease — a problem of mutual interest to our member organizations and the communities we serve,” said Donna Jones Anderson, national president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council. “We’re asking each of our organizations, local collegiate and alumni NPHC councils to join us in a collaborative effort to host blood drives and encourage our communities to give blood. Through our collective action, we can help save lives.”
Make an appointment today by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, downloading the Blood Donor App or calling 1-800-RED CROSS. All donors who come to give blood Sept. 1-18 will receive a limited-edition Red Cross t-shirt, while supplies last, and all donors who come to give Oct. 1-31 will receive a $5 e-Gift Card by email to a merchant of choice. Visit RedCrossBlood.org to learn more about blood donor eligibility and how to prepare for a blood donation.
“Community partnerships demonstrate that when we care for our community together, we can make a difference,” said Dr. Yvette Miller, executive medical officer, Red Cross Blood Services. “Sickle cell disease has few visible symptoms. In fact, many individuals battling this disease often look healthy despite suffering in pain. The mission of the Red Cross is to alleviate human suffering. We are doing that by advocating for patients battling this cruel disease to improve access to the most compatible blood products and find ways the Black community and community at large can support the transfusion needs of patients.”
Joined by Blood is part of the national Red Cross Sickle Cell Initiative, Our Blood Saves Lives, which launched with community partners in 2021 to grow the number of blood donors who are Black and improve health outcomes for patients with sickle cell disease. In the initiative’s first year, the number of first-time African American blood donors who gave with the Red Cross increased by 60%.
Learn more about the initiative at RedCrossBlood.org/OurBlood.
SICKLE CELL WARRIOR: BLOOD DONORS HELP ‘KEEP ME ALIVE’ Chris Ruffin Jr., a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., a membership organization of the Divine Nine, is one of 100,000 people in the U.S. who has sickle cell disease and relies on regular blood transfusions to manage his disease and treat complications.
Diagnosed with sickle cell disease at birth and having survived a stroke at 6 years old, Chris depends on monthly blood transfusions — receiving a total of over 3,000 units of blood so far. An HBCU graduate and Emmy Award-winning senior broadcast news producer, he credits a strong support system and generous blood donors as key factors in helping him battle sickle cell.
“[Blood] donors help me and my family by helping keep me alive,” Chris said. “Every drop of blood you give makes us family. We’re joined by blood.”
LEARN IF YOU HAVE THE SICKLE CELL TRAIT Sickle cell disease is an enduring — and often invisible — condition associated with health outcome and resource disparities in the U.S. In fact, newborn screenings for sickle cell trait were not widely performed until 2006. To help address this disparity, the Red Cross is providing sickle cell trait screening on all blood donations from self-identified African American donors. While carrying the trait does not mean that an individual has sickle cell disease, health experts recommend that individuals with sickle cell trait be aware of their status and consult their medical provider on what it means for them.
COMMUNITY PARTNER SUPPORT Partnerships with national and local organizations within the Black community are critical to building trust, sharing information and working together to engage new donors and help save lives. The Red Cross is thrilled to have the support of preeminent organizations including 100 Black Men of America, Inc., Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International, the National Pan-Hellenic Council, Seven Day Adventist Church Office of Regional Conference and United MegaCare, Inc./The Potter’s House, 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.