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You Could Save A Life

By on August 15, 2013
big_blood donors

Every two seconds in America someone needs blood!

In the summer months, the demand for blood is higher and often urgent, and Black men are particularly needed as donors due to rare blood types found in people with African ancestry. Male donors tend to have higher hemoglobin levels than female donors, making them less likely to be deferred from donating due to anemia.

Most people fall into one of the four major blood groups marked by the presence or absence of A and B antigens in their red blood cells, but some people have rare blood types due to other antigens. The U-negative and Duffy-negative blood types are two that are only (with few exceptions) found in people of African descent. Which antigens you have (or don’t have) determine if your blood will have a potentially fatal reaction to certain blood types. Additionally, when the donor and the patient are of the same ethnic or racial background with a close blood match, patients have a lower risk of developing complications and having a reaction to the transfused blood.

Blood donations from African American donors are especially crucial for sickle cell disease patients. Ninety-eight percent of people with sickle cell disease are African-American, and they frequently need blood transfusions throughout their lives. There is a real incentive for people of color to donate blood.

Blood Donors Must:

  • Be healthy
  • Be at least 17 years old in most states, or 16 years old with parental consent if allowed by state law.
  • Weigh at least 110 lbs. Additional weight requirements apply for donors 18 years old and younger and all high school donors.

If You are Blood Type:

  1. A: Whole blood or platelet donations are needed
  2. B: Whole blood or platelet donations are needed
  3. O: Whole blood; double red cell donations are most needed from those who don’t have the Rh antigen (O-negative type), as you are a universal donor for red cells (i.e. they can go to anyone of any blood type). Only 7% of people in the U.S. have O-negative blood; it can be given in emergencies before the patient’s blood type is known and to newborns.
  4. AB: Plasma and platelet donations are most needed; if you have the Rh antigen (AB-positive type), you are a universal plasma donor, as well as a universal recipient for red blood cells (i.e. you can receive any blood type). Only 3% of people in the U.S. are AB-positive.
  5. -A rare blood type: Whole blood or another type of donation (if your local blood center specifies) are urgently needed.


You can find out whether you are eligible to donate blood or blood components at the American Red Cross’s website, and by visiting a local blood donation center or drive. So how many deaths will you prevent today with a voluntary blood donation?

This article was written and submitted by Anne Dlugosz, a summer 2013 intern at Healthyblackmen.org. Some content provided by the American Red Cross.

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