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Black British Men Urgently Needed as Blood Donors

 

By Shola Adenekan

 

Wednesday, 15 January 2020.

A department of the National Health Service (NHS) is appealing for more Black British men to become blood donors in 2020.

NHS Blood and Transplant says the country urgently needs more men of African-Caribbean descent to start giving blood. It points out that there is a strong need for more men from the Black community to donate for the first time.

According to government figures, Black British women are more likely than their male counterparts to be blood donors. Studies from 2019 suggest that for every 100 Black women who donated blood for the first time last year, only 74 Black men started donating.  

The gender imbalance in new donors is the same across all ethnicities and the issue is not specific to the African-Caribbean community. However, there is already a shortage of Black British donors overall, which puts Black patients at greater risk of transfusion reactions. People from the same ethnic background are more likely to have the same blood groups, so Black patients will often get the best match from a Black donor.

Men have higher iron levels, and only men’s blood can be used for some transfusions and products. So without more men starting to give blood, blood stocks will come under increasing pressure in future years.

Danielle Jinadu from Dartford, supports the current campaign by the NHS. The 23-year-old has the life-threatening genetic disorder known as sickle cell disease, and needs eight units of blood every six weeks. Like all patients who receive multiple transfusions, Ms Jinadu relies on a safe and secure supply of blood, and Black male donors help ensure blood is always there. 

Ms Jinadu, who is studying law at the University of Warwick, said: “For me, blood transfusions are literally the difference between life and death. Without blood transfusions I know I would not be here alive at 23 years old.” 

She says she is aware of the need for more Black people to donate blood, because their blood will often be a better match for patients of African-Caribbean origin.

“I really delved into the shortage of black donors in my TEDx talk ‘The Big Black Blood Issue’,” she said. “And the overarching feedback from the Black community just came down to a lack of awareness and education around the topic.”

Ms Jinadu points out that the people who give blood are often the hidden heroes.

“I will never get to know their names but they are extraordinary,” she added. 

Other people supporting the campaign for more men to start donating blood include Nabila Nakigozi from Rainham in Essex. She is only 19 but has already experienced life threatening complications and crippling pain from sickle cell disease. She currently receives eight to ten units of blood every six weeks from the Royal London Hospital.

Ms Nakigozi has just finished college and has been admitted to study Business management and Leadership, at a university.  When she was only 15, she set up ‘Weren’t Born Rich’, an online social enterprise which sells branded clothes and uses the profits to raise awareness of sickle cell disease.

She said: “I am very into fashion and I just wanted to give back and I also know young people are into fashion it’s a way of bringing them in and once interested in the brand and clothes, telling them about my motivation to make ‘lit clothing!’

“Once people are aware of sickle cell, they’re immensely willing to help not just spread sickle cell awareness but also support me in every way possible.”

Like Ms Jinadu, Ms Nakigozi believes that blood donors are lifesavers.

“If there was no blood, that would be it. I would go into pain and eventually it would end up killing me,” she said. “People giving blood are saving my life even though they will never end up seeing it.” 

Men are valuable donors for two reasons. Firstly, they have higher iron levels, so they are also less likely to be deferred for low haemoglobin. That is crucial for helping to maintaining a strong donor base, especially for patients who receive many hundreds or thousands of transfusions over their lifetime, such as people with sickle cell disease, which is much more prevalent among people of African descent. 

Secondly, women can produce antibodies during pregnancy, even during short pregnancies that they do not even knew about. Antibodies are part of the body’s defence system and they make transfusions more difficult. This means men’s blood is only used for some specialist transfusions and blood products.

 Mike Stredder, the head of donor recruitment for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “Everyone who donates is special. But we need more men to start donating blood this year.”

Mr Stredder points out that blood donation is quick and easy, and your blood can be used in extraordinary ways.

“We need more Black donors to help with the overall shortage but we especially need more male Black donors,” he said. “Please give if you can – seriously ill people need you, and you will save lives.”

 


Black British Men Urgently Needed as Blood Donors

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