03/01/2012 06:28 pm ET Updated Mar 01, 2012

Blood Donation Campaign Targets Black Community

While high rates of sickle cell anemia and lupus prevail in the black community, often requiring blood transfusions, experts say African Americans currently donate less than one percent of the country's blood supply.

It's a shortage advocates are calling on African-American lawmakers to help turn around, seeking their help to recruit more blood donors from the black community.

In Illinois, the Coalition of Community Blood Centers and the General Assembly's Black Caucus have launched a campaign called "Make Every Drop Count," an effort to raise awareness about the need for blood donations among blacks, the Chicago Tribune reports.

According to the American Red Cross, Sickle cell disease affects more than 80,000 people in the U.S., 98 percent of whom are African American. Since the only cure -- a bone marrow transplant -- can be exceptionally difficult to see through, sickle cell patients often rely on frequent blood transfusions, sometimes as often as every few weeks. If these transfusions come from donors of the same ethnic background, there is less chance of complications after the patient receives blood, the Red Cross says.

In lupus patients, low blood platelet count and anemia are common risk factors. Pregnant women with lupus are also three times more likely to need a transfusion during pregnancy than women without the disease, The New York Times reports.

According to The Red Cross, the two most common reasons why people don't give blood are that they "Never thought about it" or they "Don't like needles." Their website includes information on blood screening and the donation process, which healthy donors can participate in every 56 days.