South Africa has held a moment of silence to pay tribute to the millions of people infected with HIV and AIDS in the country.

Speaking at a ceremony marking World AIDS Day in Durban Monday, Health Minister Barbara Hogan promised to improve programs aimed at stopping mother-to-child infections.

The U.N. AIDS agency says South Africa has 5.7 million people living with the HIV virus, more than any other country in the world.

The government has said it wants to cut new infections in half by 2011.

For years, the country was criticized for its nonchalant attitude toward the deadly disease.  Former President Thabo Mbeki openly questioned whether HIV was linked to AIDS.  And the former health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, promoted lemons, garlic and beetroot as a treatment for the virus.
About 22 million people are living with HIV across sub-Saharan Africa - about two-thirds of the global total.  Three-quarters of all AIDS deaths occurred in the region last year.

In Kenya Monday, civil society organizations planned activities aimed at fighting stigma and discrimination toward people living with HIV and AIDS.  Activities also were planned to mark World AIDS Day in Nigeria and Zambia.  

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.