MIAMI (CBS4) – Millions of Americans will pause on Wednesday to remember a loved one or friend who has died of AIDS.

Today is World AIDS Day – a day devoted to raising awareness of the devastating disease and research being done to combat it.

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A number of events are being held throughout South Florida over the course of the day to raise local awareness.

The Miami Beach Community Health Center (MBCHC) and The NAMES Project Foundation-AIDS Memorial Quilt joined forces to present a special AIDS Memorial Quilt ceremony at 11 a.m. This symbolic event portrayed the impact that HIV/AIDS has had on the lives of so many here and abroad.

During the Quilt Ceremony, hundreds of names of those who have been lost to HIV/AIDS were read aloud by local community leaders and medical professionals. At the same time, sections of the Quilt were opened and laid to rest for attendees to view.

At Miami Dade College’s Homestead Campus nationally renowned activist and motivational speaker Hydeia Broadbent shared her story about living with AIDS and her struggle to survive.

“The Homestead Campus is pleased to offer important information on HIV/AIDS and other STD’s, and to provide potentially life-saving testing to our students and community,” said Dr. Jeanne F. Jacobs, president of MDCs Homestead Campus in a written statement. “We are very pleased to have Ms. Broadbent share her inspirational story and to educate our students and the community about strategies for combating the disease.”

Additionally, free STD testing on-site is being provided by the Miami-Dade County Health Department; HIV testing with results available in 20 minutes.

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The health department also plans to hold a candlelight vigil from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Torch of Friendship on Biscayne Boulevard near the Bayside Marketplace.

Click Here for more information of AIDS/HIV health services in Miami-Dade.

In Broward County, World AIDS Day was marked at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. The featured Voices of Hope, a photo exhibit of men, women and children living with HIV. There was also free HIV testing and counseling.

Broward County’s Ryan White Part A Program Office is commemorating World AIDS Day with an exhibit in the Broward County Governmental Center lobby.

The exhibit features “Two Quilts” from the collection of more than 6,000 panels sponsored by the NAMES Project/AIDS Memorial Quilt. Broward residents are also being given the opportunity to pay tribute to family, loved ones and friends who have lost their lives to the HIV epidemic by signing a special Broward County Quilt Panel. At the end of the week, the Broward County Quilt Panel will be installed as part of the 6,000 Panel Quilt Collection.

“The NAMES Project/AIDS Memorial Quilt represents 25 years in our struggle to remember those lost to the epidemic and its impact on communities, without boundaries separated by race, gender or age,” said William Green, Ryan White Part A program grantee.

Also on display is an artwork exhibit sponsored by Children’s Diagnostic and Treatment Center.

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