Monday, October 16, 2006

Destitute desperate to hang onto disability grants

By Tarryn Le Chat
16 October 2006

As of April next year, tens of thousands of South Africans living with HIV/Aids and on anti-retroviral therapy (ART), who are ‘illegitimately’ drawing disability grants to keep themselves and their families from destitution, will be turned away. This could spell prolonged ill-health for them and possibly death.

This will be the outcome of a new ‘harmonising’ tool co-ordinating the disability grant application process between the department of health and social development, currently being piloted in the Western Cape.

The current choice is: either you adhere to ART and risk being disqualified for the temporary disability grant when your CD4 cell count climbs back above the 200 CD4 cut-off, or shun compliance, risk death and retain the income.

The Cape Times reports anecdotal stories of near-destitute people deliberately becoming HIV-infected, or pregnant, or resorting to bribery or fraud to access social grants, with an HIV-positive diagnosis sometimes being called “winning the lotto”.

The disability grant is the only social grant available to adults of working age in South Africa, where unemployment is currently estimated between 26% and 41%.

About 45% to 55% of South Africans are estimated to be living in poverty. Disability grants more than doubled, from 600 000 in 2000, to almost 1.3 million in 2004.

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