Why This Blood Donation Service Needs More Black Donors

Photographed by Megan Madden.

The UK's National Health Service's blood donation program, NHS Blood and Transplant, needs more Black donors — and they aren't shy to say so. But the service has been getting a lot of flak recently for singling out one racial group. So, they took to Twitter to explain.

In a now-viral thread, @GiveBloodNHS made it clear that asking Black people to donate isn't about racism or racial profiling — it's about making sure they have enough blood to treat the Black community.

Now, that might sound wrong since we're often told that underneath our skin everyone is the same, but that's a vast oversimplification, according to the NHS. Humans don't all have the same blood regardless of race, and Black people are more likely to have a specific type of blood good for treating sickle cell anemia — a disease that affects mostly the Black community.

As the thread explains, we already know that not everyone has the same blood, because there are several different blood types and those types are important for anyone who needs a blood transfusion. Race matters in this context, because people of the same race are more likely to have the same blood type.

For example, the NHS tweeted, Black people are 10 times more likely to have a subtype of blood called Ro than white people. That's important because people who have sickle cell anemia are also more likely to have Ro blood. Sickle cell causes sickle or crescent moon-shaped red blood cells, rather than the disc-shaped cells we usually have. Their shape makes it more difficult for these cells to circulate the body, and therefore people who have sickle cell anemia often need blood transfusions.

The service also addressed the question they're sure you'd ask. Why wouldn't they just put out a call for Ro blood?

Of course, the NHS also put in a plug to people of any race to start giving blood, because "blood donation saves lives, whatever your colour." And, they want you to remember, you'll get a free cookie out of it.

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