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More blood donors needed from diverse ethnic backgrounds

Blood group is classified on the basis of the characteristics of red cells. There are over 30 blood group systems, with ABO and Rhesus as the two most important. Blood groups are hereditary and varying degrees of blood group differences exist between different ethnic groups. Different ethnic groups can belong to blood groups which are unheard of in other social groups.

To ensure safe blood transfusions and help patients to recover, blood products need to match the patient's blood group. However, there are exceptions. For example, O RhD negative is suitable for almost everyone, regardless of their blood group. A suitable blood product can be found for most patients regardless of their background, since the most common ABO and Rhesus blood group factors are the same.

However, a patient may need blood products repeatedly, or in large quantities on the same occasion. In such a case, certain blood group characteristics may matter more to the success of the treatment. All ethnic groups include people with rare blood group characteristics. For these people, suitable donors must be sought separately, in order to create compatible blood products.

Particular need for blood donors of African origin

Differences between blood groups are minor in the case of patients born in Finland's neighbouring countries. In contrast, people with an African background can belong to rare blood groups or blood group combinations which are practically non-existent among people of Finnish origin. With the number of people of African origin increasing in Finland, suitable blood products are required for the treatment of haemorrhages and anaemia. For example, due to sickle-cell anaemia more patients are in need of repeated red cell transfusions amongst African than other ethnic groups. Many European countries are actively recruiting blood donors from among their various ethnic minorities. The Blood Service also wants more blood donors of African origin.

Blood donors must fulfil the blood donation eligibility requirements before each donation session and confirm, by signature, that such information is correct. Blood donors must be able to manage independently in either Finnish, Swedish or English. In addition, it should be noted that people born, or who have lived as children (under 5 years old), in malarial areas are tested for malaria antibodies before donating blood. If the test is negative, they can donate blood once three years have passed since they last visited a malarial area.