We recently heard about malaria-inspired clothing designs that were exhibited at Swahili Fashion Week, an annual gathering of designers from Swahili-speaking countries. This year, three designers were chosen to develop a collection inspired by malaria and show their creations on the runway. The malaria fashion project resulted from a collaboration among John Hopkins University’s Center for Communication Programs; VOICES for a Malaria-Free Future project; Malaria Haikubaliki (“Malaria Is not Acceptable”), Tanzania’s national malaria communication campaign; and Swahili Fashion Week.

View more photos of the malaria-inspired clothing collection at Swahili Fashion Week.

This innovative malaria awareness campaign led us to consider the implications of malaria for youth. Pregnant women and people living with HIV (PLWH) are at higher risk of contracting malaria and suffering from or dying of it than others. The negative impact of malaria on PLWH is of particular concern for youth, because nearly half of all new HIV infections occur among young people between the ages of 15 and 24. Furthermore, approximately 16 million adolescent girls ages 15-19 give birth each year, and adolescent pregnancies account for more than 10 percent of all births worldwide. Thus, the negative health outcomes associated with malaria in pregnancy have the potential to affect millions of adolescent girls. Malaria during pregnancy increases the risk of maternal anemia, stillbirth, spontaneous abortion, low birth weight, and neonatal death. Every year, up to 200,000 women and infants die as a result of malaria in pregnancy.

The topic of malaria is often ignored within the context of adolescent sexual and reproductive health. The importance of malaria awareness in the field of public health is well known, but have you ever considered that malaria awareness may be an important component of improving the reproductive health of adolescents? We want to hear your thoughts about malaria and youth reproductive health. Leave a comment and let us know what you think.