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PAFF saving lives

Shirley Hawkins | 1/30/2008, 5 p.m.

There are thousands of African Americans across the country who are suffering from diseases of the blood and immune system, such as leukemia and lymphoma, and are in desperate need of bone marrow transplants that could save their lives.

Of the six million potential donors in the National Marrow Donor Program's registry, only 430,000 are African American. The acute shortage continues to impact patients who are awaiting individuals willing to donate healthy marrow.
This year, the Pan African Film Festival will join Project Africa Global's National Marrow Donor Registration Drive Collaborative Network in an effort to register 5,000 minority marrow donors during the festival from Feb. 8 through Feb. 17.
The idea for the drive came about when several boardmembers of Project Africa Global met 36-year-old Jerome Williams, who was diagnosed with leukemia five years ago. Doctors informed Williams, an actor, that if he does not receive a bone marrow transplant he will die.
Although Williams was shaken by the dire news, he remains hopeful that he will receive a transplant. Williams said that his number one mission is to raise awareness of the urgent need for minority registrants.
"Currently, minorities are grossly under-represented in the registry," said Williams. "My best chance of finding a match is someone of the same ethnicity. More minority donors are urgently needed."
Dr. Condessa M. Curley, MD, president of Project Africa Global, Inc., is also hoping that the bone marrow drive at PAFF will help raise awareness for more African American donors. "Not only do we need to increase the awareness and need for minorities to donate bone marrow, but we need to step up to the plate to save lives," said Dr. Curley.
Festival attendees will fill out a 10-minute application which will outline a few medical questions. After filling out the application, "We will then swab the inside of their mouth," said Dr. Curley. "The swab will then be sent to the National Marrow Donor Program so that the donor will be registered. We are hopeful that 5,000 of the estimated 40,000 attendees at the Pan African Film Festival will register for this life-giving bone marrow to other minorities who need it," said Dr. Curley.
For more information about Project Africa Global's National Marrow Donor Registration Drive, call Cliff Okada, outreach and recruitment coordinator at Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches on (213) 473-1661 or 888-236-4673.