Why is the Red Cross raising awareness about sickle cell disease?

Posted at 5:07 PM, Mar 31, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disease that impacts more than 100,000 Americans, with 90% being African American. According to the CDC, sickle cell disease occurs in about one out of every 365 black or African American births. In Virginia alone, the Health Department estimates that 2,500 to 4,500 African American residents have sickle cell disease.

The disease is also common in Spanish-speaking regions in the Western Hemisphere, and in people of Middle Eastern, Asian, Indian, and Mediterranean descent.

There is no cure for the disease and median life expectancy for those with sickle cell disease is between 42 and 47 years old.

Because of these alarming statistics, the American Red Cross launched a Sickle Cell initiative to increase awareness about the disease, especially in the black community and at historically black universities.

GeNienne Samuels spoke with Trei Banks who leads the Sickle Cell program for the American Red Cross in Henrico.

The American Red Cross is “utilizing our opportunity to empower African American communities… and looking to bring education and awareness to every demographic," Banks said.

Banks added that American Red Cross aims “push diversity” to ensure the blood available is representative of the community in which it will serve.

It’s easy to donate blood.

“It takes about 40 minutes to an hour of your time,” Banks said. “And one unit of blood saves three lives.”

Another reminder from Banks, he says it’s important to know your sickle cell status because if you are a carrier of the trait and have a child with another carrier, your child has a 25% chance of having sickle cell disease.

Banks also shared that anyone who self-identifies as African American can request a sickle cell test at an American Red Cross donation center starting April 1, 2023.

For more information on blood drives and to find a blood donation center near you, click here.

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