Dr. Demetre Daskalakis will be the new head of New York City’s Bureau of HIV/AIDS, starting in September, according to The New York Times.
Last year, Dr. Daskalakis led a successful effort to vaccinate gay men from meningitis when an outbreak threatened the community. The campaign was focused on meeting gay men where the disease was suspected to be spreading fastest: through hookup apps, sex clubs, and bathhouses.
The Times frames Daskalakis's appointment as an opportunity to leverage his acceptance by gay men, helping to spread information and testing to populations that can be wary of authority, including particular outreach to marginalized, at-risk communities like young black and Latino gay men.
Daskalakis told the Times that he wants to build on his past success, and use social media to reach gay and bisexual men with prevention and treatment efforts. He also wants to make Truvada more accessible to the community, something Governor Andrew Cuomo also pledged to do.
Daskalakis first got interested in HIV and AIDS as a student at Columbia University, the Times reports. His commitment to fighting the disease was strengthened while in medical school, where he worked in the HIV ward.
“I was on the cusp of seeing the devastaion,” Daskalakis told the Times. “The bar is much higher now to make it better.”
Last year, Daskalakis was named one of OUT magazine’s 100 most compelling people for his work with HIV and AIDS in New York City. The magazine particularly highlighted his efforts, since 2006, to test men going to sex clubs and bathhouses for sexually transmitted infections and refer them to proper medical care.
"I was going to do everything I could to not let someone with HIV get sick or die, and to prevent people without HIV from actually getting the infection," Daskalakis told OUT.
Daskalakis is the director of HIV services at Manhattan's Mount Sinai Hospital, and works as a senior faculty member teaching about infectious diseases. According to OUT, Daskalakis is living and working his dream job.
“Health care is a human right,” he told OUT. “We’re just catching up.”