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Red Cross to Highlight Struggle With Sickle Cell Disease in Black Community During Awareness Month

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The Red Cross recently announced that they’re partnering with Black-led organizations during Sickle Cell Awareness Month to spotlight the struggles of people in the Black community with the disease. 

In an official statement, the nonprofit organization announced its official partnership with the National Pan-Hellenic Council. Through the group of Black-led college fraternities and sororities, also known as the Divine Nine, the Red Cross will work to spread the news about blood drives that’ll be held by members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council. 

For their part, the National Pan-Hellenic Council is calling upon all of their current and former alumni as well as their organizations to encourage people to come and donate in order to take action against the disease. 

The new partnership is part of a larger initiative known as the “Red Cross Sickle Intiative, Our Blood Saves Lives.” Created in 2021, through the initiative’s efforts, the rate of Black Americans donating blood has already increased by 60%, according to the Red Cross.

“Community partnerships demonstrate that when we care for our community together, we can make a difference,” said the executive medical officer of the Red Cross, Dr. Yvette Miller, in a statement. “We are doing that by advocating for patients battling this cruel disease to improve access to the most compatible blood products and find ways the Black community and community at large can support the transfusion needs of patients.” 

Sickle cell disease has long been a prominent issue in the Black community. According to the Center for Disease Control, the disease, which is most often diagnosed from a young age and inherited, occurs at least once out of every 365 births in the Black American community. Even if the disease isn’t as evident at birth, one out of 13 Black babies still carries the sickle cell trait for the disease. 

Overall, the community records the highest rates of the disease out of any ethnic or racial group. Of the one million to three million that are affected by sickle cell disease, eight to ten percent are Black Americans, according to the American Society of Hematology. 

Sickle cell disease can often come with severe symptoms. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, symptoms of the disease include anemia, acute chest syndrome, jaundice and strokes. Other complications that may arise from a diagnosis include bone issues, kidney damage, eye damage, more infections and ulcers in the leg. 

“Sickle cell disease has few visible symptoms,” said Dr. Miller in a statement. “In fact, many individuals battling this disease often look healthy despite suffering in pain.  The mission of the Red Cross is to alleviate human suffering.”

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