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Urgent need to expand donor base in SA among people of African descent

Dire need for blood donors from ethnically diverse backgrounds. Picture: Rawpixel

Dire need for blood donors from ethnically diverse backgrounds. Picture: Rawpixel

Published Aug 4, 2022


August is National Childhood Health Month, Bone Marrow Stem Cell Donation Month, and Leukaemia Awareness Month.

Every 72 minutes, someone is diagnosed with blood cancer in South Africa and often a stem cell transplant is their only hope for survival.

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This is also the case for those living with other blood disorders like leukaemia, sickle cell disease and aplastic anaemia.

“Immediate relatives like a biological mother, father and immediate siblings are genetically typed first to determine whether they are matches.

“However, only 30% of patients find matches within their family, with 70% relying on unrelated matches,” says Palesa Mokomele, director of corporate communications at DKMS Africa, an international non-profit organisation dedicated to the fight against blood cancer and blood disorders.

Dire need for blood donors from ethnically diverse backgrounds. Picture: Rawpixel

DKMS Africa is part of a global registry of stem-cell donors, but unfortunately, those of African descent are under-represented.

This is why there is a dire need for blood donors from ethnically diverse backgrounds.

“What makes our work so necessary is that black, coloured, Indian and Asian blood cancer patients only have a 19% chance of finding a match, despite representing more than 80% of the SA population,” Mokomele says.

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The annual Sunflower Day is one of the organisation’s most important drives to raise funds and awareness. Through Pick n Pay’s support of the campaign, DKMS Africa is able to maintain a patient support fund to assist those who are unable to afford the costs associated with getting a transplant.

Raising funds for education and creating awareness around the need for and the process of becoming a stem cell donor as well as to cover the cost of the HLA tissue-typing test involved in the recruitment of donors. All of these areas help to provide lifesaving treatments for people living with a blood disorder.

It is critical we support DKMS in their important work to diversify South Africa’s donor base.

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Dire need to expand donor base in South Africa

It’s simple and painless to sign up to be a stem cell donor. Three DNA swabs from the cheeks and mouth of the prospective donor are all that is necessary. After that, the donor receives a thorough medical exam, which involves drawing blood. After 30 days, they are invited to donate stem cells.

If you are between the ages of 18 and 55 years old and in good health, you can register to become a donor at the DKMS website.

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Read the latest issue of IOL Health digital magazine here.

Related Topics:

CancerHealth Welfare