According to the Department of Social Development, disability grants are available to adult South African citizens and permanent residents who are incapacitated and unable to work due to illness or disability. A number of people living with HIV/AIDS (PWAs) have accessed disability grants once they have fulfilled the criteria set down by the Department of Social Development. Current government policies entitle PWAs, a least in theory, to access antiretroviral medications. Where PWAs have been able to access antiretroviral treatment (ART) through the government's antiretroviral programme, this has led to an improvement in their health and subsequent disqualification for a disability grant. In South Africa's highly unequal society, the disability grant often operates as the only source of income for poor families. This has created an untenable situation as many PWAs are forced to choose between receiving their disability grant and accessing life-saving medication. We explore the intersection of social security with access to ART and argue that it presents complex problems in the context of HIV/AIDS, and thus requires urgent debate and resolution. Potential solutions to this problem, including the provision of a basic income grant to all South Africans, are proposed.
Keywords: basic income grant, legislation, policy, poverty, social security
African Journal of AIDS Research 2006, 5(1): 85–96