Social grants as safety net for HIV/AIDS-affected households in South Africa.SAHARA J. 2004 May; 1(1):45-56.SJ
South Africa has a well-developed system of social security and the reach of the social grant safety net has expanded rapidly over the past five years. Social grants are likely to play an important role in mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS, given that eligibility for these grants is driven largely by the increasing burden of chronic illness, the mounting orphan crisis and the impoverishment of households associated with the epidemic. This paper investigates the role of social grants in mitigating the socio-economic impact of HIV/AIDS in South Africa, using data from a panel designed to investigate the household impact of the epidemic. Data were collected from a total of 351 purposively sampled households interviewed four times over a period of two and a half years. Affected households were more dependent on income from social grants compared with households that had never experienced morbidity or mortality. A significantly larger proportion of affected households qualified for social assistance. Access to the old age pension remained relatively stable, highlighting the high take-up rate of this grant, while access to the child support and disability grant increased over time.Yet, take-up of these grants remains low and there is still much scope to improve take-up rates. Social grants also play an important role in poverty alleviation. The rate of poverty reduction continued to increase over time in affected households, but remained relatively stable in the case of households that had not experienced morbidity or mortality. This saw the gap in the incidence, depth and severity of poverty between affected households and households that had not experienced morbidity decline. Social grants also translated into a significant reduction in the severity of poverty in affected households.