Social grants may play an important role in mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS. Eligibility for these grants is driven in part by the increasing burden of chronic illness, the mounting orphan crisis and the impoverishment of households associated with the epidemic. This article investigates the role of social grants in mitigating the socio-economic impact of HIV/AIDS in South Africa, using data from a panel study on the household impact of the epidemic. Social grants reduce inequality and decrease the prevalence, depth and severity of poverty in affected households. However, these transfers also have disincentive effects on employment, while non-uptake is in some cases higher amongst the poorest.