The Treatment Action Campaign has launched a campaign to have government provide a chronic disease grant for everyone living with HIV or tuberculosis.
The TAC also demanded that the Department for Social Development stop cutting disability grants to people hospitalised with multi-drug resistant TB.
The TAC said yesterday that thousands of families faced destitution when a family members' disability grant was stopped.
The Social Assistance Act stipulates that those housed in state facilities, including TB hospitals, may not receive disability grants since the state is taking care of them.
Thousands face destitution when disability pay is cut
But Aids Law Project attorney Agnieszka Wlodarski said the law allowed for exceptions.
"Patients admitted to psychiatric institutions still receive grants for six months, so it is not clear why TB patients' grants are taken away," she said.
Rosie Burton, who works with HIV and TB patients on the Cape Flats, said the policy had resulted in drug resistant and extreme drug resistant TB.
"Patients need to be isolated in specialised TB hospitals and to be treated for a minimum of six months, yet once they find their disability grants have been cancelled, they leave hospital to look for work," she said.
'State policies result in drug resistant TB,' says doctor
Burton said these patients "then seek treatment at day hospitals that have no isolation rooms and spread the illness further".
Ntombiyethu Ntsala, of Khayelitsha, said all chronically ill people should get a "chronic disease" grant.
Ntsala said she received a disability grant for two years after she was diagnosed with HIV. But in 2005, when she began taking antiretrovirals, the grant was cut and she and her husband had no money for food.
Department for Social Deve- lopment spokesman Zingaphi Jakuja said the department was aware of the TAC's demands and would reply to it in due course.