U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Washington has begun transferring control of an anti-AIDS program to South Africa, which has the world's highest rate of HIV infection.
Clinton made the announcement Wednesday during a speech at the University of the Western Cape on the outskirts of Cape Town. She said the agreement is a "major step" in South Africa's fight against the virus.
The U.S. limited access to HIV/AIDS funding to the government of South Africa during the administration of former President Thabo Mbeki, who denied there was a link between HIV and AIDS and rejected internationally recognized treatments for the disease.
Washington has spent $3.2 billion since 2004 on the South Africa HIV/AIDS program. Though the country has made advances in slowing the infection rate, more than 17 percent of the country has tested positive for the virus.
Clinton, who is on a four-day visit to South Africa, met Tuesday with senior South African officials in the capital of Pretoria, where she called for deeper ties between South Africa and the United States.
Following her stay in South Africa, Clinton travels to Nigeria, Ghana and Benin. The trip has already taken her to Senegal, Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya and Malawi. She has largely focused on security and increased U.S. trade and investment during her 11-day tour.
Human Rights Watch on Wednesday called on Clinton to press Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to address a rising trend of violence in northern and central Nigeria when she visits the country this week.
The group said much of the violence has been initiated by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram. But it also said Nigerian security forces have rounded up hundreds of people and routinely detained them without charge or trial.
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