ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. — With the only beachfront pride event in Colorado, Aurora Pride celebrated its biggest year yet Saturday, with an estimated 10,000 people in attendance, according to organizers.
"I remember the first one, and I was like, 'Oh, Aurora, really?' But this is awesome," Mike Maez said.
Among the booths, vendors and health resources, a Tri-County Health Department was also there, offering HIV testing and more.
New this year, because of the monkeypox outbreak, the health department also hosted a monkeypox vaccine clinic, offering about 400 doses on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Maez, who got his shot at a different clinic Saturday morning, says having the shots available at Aurora Pride goes a long way for the community, and demand for the vaccine at the event proved it.
"I think the government has failed us many times, and they're kind of behind the ball on this one," he said. "The fact that [they're] trying to catch up … it's very important."
Zander Oklar, executive director of Aurora Pride, says he and Tri-County Health worked closely together to make it happen.
"So many people have been, you know, hunting and searching for this vaccine, and we're so happy that they can come here, get vaccinated and be safe," he said.
Community member says there is a growing stigma, similar to what they dealt with during the HIV/AIDS crisis, but the focus, they argue, should be on the facts: that anyone can get monkeypox and that there are resources available to prevent and treat it.
"Unfortunately, I think it's just part of this society that we have to deal with," Bobby Wilkinson said. "The most important thing is … we know it's out there, we have vaccines, and to get people vaccinated, to keep people safe, that is most important."