Concern as Namibia Cuts HIV Disability Grants
August 11, 2005
Namibia's recent decision to restrict HIV disability grants to only those patients who are medically certified as unable to work could accelerate a patient's progression to AIDS, say activists. The government previously allowed any Namibian with HIV to claim a monthly disability grant of 300 Namibian dollars ($47 US) but starting in August, only those who are certified as at least 50 percent disabled will qualify. Around one in five adults in the country are HIV-positive, according to UNAIDS.
In announcing the decision late last month, Kalumbi Shangula, minister of health and social services, said some people were claiming disability grants even though they continued to work. It is not clear how many HIV-positive Namibians will no longer qualify for the grant.
By the end of June, Namibia was providing antiretroviral drugs to about 11,000 people and was on track to meet its target of 16,000 patients by the end of the year. But a social worker for the HIV/AIDS group Lironga Eparu, which means "learn to survive" in the northern Kwangari language, said that AIDS patients who are responding to treatment with increased CD4 counts now risk losing disability grants. "Our people are poor and live in squatter camps and informal settlements. Most of them cannot read and write. Although their [CD4] count improves, where will they get food?" asked the worker, who declined to be identified.
On Tuesday, the independent advocacy group the Legal Assistance Center sent an open letter to Shangula saying it was concerned that "denial of some form of assistance to people living with HIV will in fact ensure that they progress faster to full-blown AIDS for lack of adequate treatment, care, nutrition, water, and shelter, for which the disability grant catered." Shangula was unavailable for comment on Wednesday.
08.10.2005; Desiewaar Heita
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.