September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month, and the American Red Cross is hosting several blood drives Thursday and urging African Americans to donate and aid in the fight against the genetic blood disorder.

Sickle Cell Disease is an inherited blood disorder that causes red blood cells to become hard and crescent-shaped, preventing blood from flowing smoothly to the rest of the body, with the potential to lead to tissue and organ damage and strokes.

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It's a disease that disproportionally affects the African American community, with roughly 1 in 365 Black people getting the disease. Patients with the disease receive donated blood to help increase the number of healthy cells in their bodies.

Some of the rare blood types that must be matched are unique to specific racial and ethnic groups, which is why the African American community is being called to action.

As blood drives across the country continue to be canceled at schools, colleges, and workplaces, more and more black donors are missing the opportunity to donate -- the number of donors at schools across the country decreased from over 15,000 in 2019 to 2,700 this year, according to the Red Cross.

Those interested in donating can come to several locations across Tuscaloosa Thursday:

  • Cypress Inn, 501 Rice Mine Rd. N: 10am-3pm
  • University of Alabama, 751 Campus Drive: 10am-4pm
  • First United Methodist Church, 800 Greensboro Ave: 11am-5pm
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