This study investigates the role of Saving and Credit Groups (SCGs) in improving the copuing strategies of poor, rural households affected by HIV/AIDS. Today, more than 5.6 million South Africans are HIV positive. Every day around 1,000 of these people die, while at the same time, more than 1,200 become newly infected. With most stakeholders looking to the health sector for solutions there is a lack of practical livelihood strategies for people to weather the debilitating shocks caused by the disease. These shocks force vulnerable households to employ irreversible coping strategies and threaten to trap them in poverty.
This study presents important evidence of consumption smoothing and improved coping mechanisms among people affected by HIV/AIDS who are members of SCGs. Stable levels of consumption among participants suggest that they are more protected from insecure and volatile flows of income and are more able to meet basic household needs. Results indicate that coping strategies have been strengthened, and overall vulnerability to the impact of adverse shocks has been cushioned. With this target group being largely typical of rural populations affected by HIV/AIDS in South Africa, it is likely that the same impact can be achieved on a much larger scale and there is thus great scope for project replication in other areas.