Since becoming diagnosed [with aplastic anemia], [Johnika] Carter-Kiel, now 19, has been searching for a bone marrow donor who could cure her. A match will probably share her African American heritage. But the odds are slim. About 7 percent of the nation’s 10 million registered potential bone-marrow donors are black, compared with 75 percent who are white.
In an attempt to correct that shortage, the National Marrow Donor Program is starting a nationwide awareness campaign this summer.
On behalf of the organization, Carter-Kiel spoke Sunday in San Francisco’s Moscone Center as part of the biennial conference of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the nation’s first Greek-letter sorority for African American college women.
Many African Americans are reluctant to donate bone marrow because they fear the process, even though they can donate peripheral blood stem cells non-surgically, and they distrust the health care system, said Myrada Benjamin, an account executive and a community recruiter for the National Marrow Donor Program.
“Here we live in an extremely diverse area with a ton of people of color,” she said, “and we’re dying.”