Why UK’s Blood Donation Service Needs Black Donors

Why UK’s Blood Donation Service Needs Black Donors
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Give Blood, the UK’s blood donation service, has been copping flak after asking for black blood donors. Everybody bleeds so why does race matter when it comes to blood donors?

The answer to that question came in the form of a lengthy, gif-laden Twitter thread.

While blood serves the same purpose for everyone, that doesn’t mean that everyone’s blood is the same.

There are more than 30 different blood types or blood groups, such as the well-known ABO group or positive/negative groups. These types are caused by the presence of specific antigens or lack thereof. A more detailed explanation is available on the Give Blood website.

Matching blood types is important when patients receive transfusions. When the body detects foreign antigens, such as the ones not present in the patient’s blood, it creates antibodies as an immunological response to fight them off.

The more blood they receive, the closer the match has to be to prevent (or minimise) this response. The immunological response can cause a rejection of the blood transfusion, negating the positive effects or creating new symptoms in the patient.

There’s a genetic component to these antigens, making certain groups and subgroups more prevalent within different ethnic groups. One of these subgroups, Ro, is significantly more prevalent among black people.

Many people with sickle cell disease also have Ro blood. Sufferers of the disease, which causes hard to circulate sickle-shaped blood-cells to form, require regular blood transfusions to stay alive.

So the obvious question is, why are they asking for black people to donate and not people with Ro blood? It’s simple: Most people don’t know their blood type but they do know their race.

Want to donate blood? Visit the Red Cross website or call 13 14 95 to book an appointment.