Cultural and religious beliefs, an obstacle to stem cell donations

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The SA Bone Marrow Registry says South Africa has more than four thousand new cases of blood disorders, such as leukemia, reported each year.

He says that in most cases the only hope for a cure is a bone marrow transplant, also called a stem cell transplant.

The likelihood of people of certain ethnic backgrounds getting a successful bone marrow transplant is much lower than that of people of European descent.

That’s according to SA Bone Marrow Registry Deputy Director Jane Ward.

She says on Bone Marrow Donor Day – the 17th of this month – they are aiming for 100,000 registrations.

Ward is now urging people to come forward in large numbers to become donors.

She says one of the biggest barriers to stem cell donation is cultural and religious beliefs.

“The chance of people from certain ethnic backgrounds finding a successful match is only 37% compared to patients of European descent whose odds are 72%. Finding a match is higher among donors from the ethnic group d ‘a patient, but even then the chance of finding a match is 1 in 100,000,’ she said.

Ward says there are a lot of untruths about the donation process.

She says people think they’re drilling into your bones, but the process takes six to eight hours and you’re comfortable.