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TV stars team up with ACLT to encourage more black donors

SHOWING SUPPORT: Actor Ashley Walters and TV judge Alesha Dixon

HIGH PROFILE television personalities, including Alesha Dixon and Ashley Walters, have joined forces with the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust (ACLT) to encourage more black blood, organ and stem cell donors.

ACLT and NHS Blood and Transplant have teamed up to launch new campaign film, #ImOnIt, to highlight the importance of black and mixed race people signing up to become a stem cell donor as well as registering as blood and organ donors.

The film features the recital of a spoken word poem written by Mark Thompson; husband of leukaemia survivor Sarah Thompson. Through the poem, Mark talks about the "ultimate gift of life" given to Sarah when she received a stem cell transplant ten years ago, this year.

The short piece is narrated by several well-known faces from the UK’s music and entertainment industry; including Britain’s Got Talent judge Alesha Dixon, Top Boy star Ashley Walters, EastEnders actor Richard Blackwood and Mandem on the Wall.

DOING THEIR PART: Mandem on the Wall's Joivan Wade (right) and Percelle Ascott (left) with ACLT co-founder Orin Lewis

During the video, the celebrities speak directly to camera and call on people to say “I’m On It” and register to become a blood, organ, and stem cell donor.

Alesha Dixon, in her support of the campaign, said: “As a community we need to stand together and make a change to ensure anyone fighting an illness where a lifesaving donor is needed, has the chance to receive the ‘gift of life'. If we all say #ImOnIt – this will take us closer to that becoming a reality."

The need for more black African or black Caribbean people to join the stem cell register remains as important today as it was nearly 20 years ago when ACLT was founded.

Caucasian patients requiring a stem cell transplant have up to a 60-90 per cent chance of finding a match. However, if you are from a black or mixed race background then your chances could be as little as 20 per cent, or even lower, according to ACLT and Anthony Nolan data,

Of the 878,991 active donors who have given blood across England and North Wales in the last 12 months, less than 1 per cent are from black communities. Of all the potential bone marrow donors registered with the British Bone Marrow Registry (BBMR), only 1.2 per cent are from black communities.

Orin Lewis, ACLT co-founder & CEO said: “The need for black blood, organ and stem cell donors can’t be emphasised enough. Alongside NHS Blood and Transplant, we are encouraging people from black and mixed race backgrounds to say #ImOnIt and to sign up to give blood, donate their organs after death and to join the stem cell register. It is vital we highlight the woeful statistics and help save the lives of those in need.”

Watch the video below:

Ian Trenholm, chief executive of NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “We need more black people to register as blood, organ and stem cell donors. Some rare blood types are more common among black communities and donations are used to treat blood disorders, such as Sickle Cell Disease, which are more likely to affect the black community.

He continued: "We also need to ensure blood supplies for the emergency treatment of patients with rare blood types, for example after road accidents or childbirth complications.

"At the same time, black people in need of a kidney transplant spend longer waiting for an organ and far too many die before receiving the transplant they so desperately need. We need to find donors whose blood group and tissue type match the recipient and this is much more likely if they come from the same ethnic group.

By registering today and saying ‘I’m on it’, you can help save lives," Trenholm added.

#ImOnIt calls on black and mixed race individuals to visit to register to join the blood, organ and stem cell donor registers. Alternatively, call NHS Blood and Transplant on 0300 123 23 23, quoting codes R20 when registering for blood donation and 2209 for organ donation.

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