Better together

Supporting teenage mentors living with chronic disease


Together with clinicians in Groote Schuur Hospital, we are developing a cross-departmental support group for adolescents with chronic illnesses, including HIV.

Since 2005, global deaths from AIDS have fallen by almost 40% across all age groups except for adolescents. Despite the scaling up of treatment, AIDS is now the leading cause of adolescent deaths in Africa.

The management of chronic conditions in adolescence, a time of change, is a major challenge for young adults, their families and healthcare teams. Low diagnosis rates and limited access to care contribute to adolescent mortality.

For those receiving treatment, the outcomes are still poor. With children, parents often directly manage care and enforce adherence treatments and medications. As adolescents start to manage their own care, things can fall apart. They often have difficulties in conceptualising future consequences of their actions and tend to see themselves as ‘bulletproof’. Concerns about peer relationships and self-image often conflict with the demands of chronic illness and treatment regimens.

Better Together programme is one of the first of its kind worldwide to identify the advantages of bringing young people with different conditions together, especially when it comes to overcoming the sense of isolation and stigma.

One to One Children’s Fund is now working to hone this approach with Groote Schuur Hospital, creating a new model of peer-led adolescent support groups that helps them cope with their illness on a physical, psychological and social level.

This programme is one of the first of its kind worldwide.

key facts


young people will be trained to become Youth Champions


sessions of training mentors with two follow-up courses


young people living with chronic illness will be reached


will be invested in this programme



  1. Provide weekly peer group sessions for 12-19-year olds who live with chronic illnesses. Instead of separating out young people into illness-specific groups, this approach aims to reduce the stigma associated with certain chronic illnesses by providing young people with an adolescent-friendly space to share their experiences.

  2. Deliver medical and psychosocial support and information from a psychologist, different clinicians and social service staff and ensure a focus on therapeutic games to address issues including chronic illness, self-esteem, self-harm, depression, anxiety, gaining insight and coping skills.

  3. Have a Family Planning Sister provide one hour of support each week – a “one-stop-shop” providing advice on counselling, contraception and protection.

  4. Train 10-15 young people to become Youth Champions so that they can go out into their community and support hard to reach young people who might not be accessing services. There will be 15 sessions with two follow-up courses to provide ongoing support to mentors.

  5. £39,000 will be invested in this programme, which will impact 250 young people living with chronic illness.

HELP SUPPORT better together