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Dallas’ Black Pride Weekend events canceled to raise monkeypox awareness

New monkeypox cases are still being reported in Dallas County, although the daily number has been decreasing since mid-August.

Dallas’ upcoming Black Pride Weekend has been canceled “out of an abundance of caution” over the spread of the monkeypox virus, event organizers announced.

New monkeypox cases continue to be reported daily in Dallas County, although the number has been declining since a peak of 25 new cases on Aug. 10, according to county health department data. A total of 677 cases have been confirmed since the start of the outbreak in June.

The celebratory weekend-long event, scheduled for Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, was set to draw anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 attendees, said Kirk Myers-Hill, president and business advisor of Dallas Southern Pride, which hosts Black Pride Weekend.

The decision to cancel was made not only to prevent the spread of the virus, but to also draw attention to vaccination opportunities for Black and Latino members of the LGBT community, organizers said. Dallas Southern Pride is directing event attendees to vaccine clinics held by Abounding Prosperity, Inc., a nonprofit founded to address social and health disparities in Dallas County.

“We’re using the cancellation of this event to bring attention to vaccine equity,” Myers-Hill said. “We’ve been following monkeypox cases and the lack of vaccinations and we’re working with county, state and federal officials to make sure that we can meet safely in the future.”

Dallas Black Pride is yet another event affected by the smallpox-like virus, which can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, prolonged intimate contact or contact with contaminated materials, like clothing or bedding.

The owners of Dallas’ Station 4 postponed a circuit party at the dance club largely frequented by LGBT customers in early August because of the virus, and organizers of the Gay Softball World Series hosted in Dallas discouraged athletes from participating in the tournament’s annual T-shirt swap.

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A monkeypox infection is typically accompanied by flu-like symptoms, followed by lesions that can spread throughout the body or stay confined to only a few locations. The lesions go through several stages, including becoming raised and liquid filled, before scabbing over and falling off. They can be incredibly painful, although monkeypox is rarely fatal.

Vaccines are currently available for a limited group of people. Dallas County officials have urged residents to rethink attending large gatherings. Men who have sex with men have been cautioned in particular, as the virus has been spreading primarily among that demographic.

“We’re definitely not seeing that exponential increase in cases we were seeing at the very beginning, so that’s a good thing,” said Dr. Philip Huang, Dallas County’s top health official. “It seems like people are doing prevention and taking the vaccines that are out there.”

Myers-Hill said Dallas Southern Pride will look to pride events hosted recently in other cities, including Atlanta Black Pride Weekend, to see if the gatherings led to a spike in monkeypox cases. As of right now, Dallas Southern Pride has scheduled a holiday-themed weekend of events beginning Dec. 17.

Abounding Prosperity is one of a few community health organizations to be providing monkeypox vaccines in partnership with Dallas County Health and Human Services. The nonprofit’s vaccine clinic is at the HOPE Health and Wellness Center at 1619 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Dallas from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the first and third Saturdays of the month, while supplies last.

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