Dr. Demetre Daskalakis has a long history of working in public health on issues pertaining to the LGBT community, and now he’s helping lead the Biden administration’s response to the ongoing monkeypox outbreak.
Daskalakis was appointed Deputy Coordinator of the White House National Monkeypox Response on Aug. 2, serving under Response Coordinator Robert Fenton, a longtime official at FEMA, according to a White House statement. While Fenton’s experience spans a wide range of disaster response, Daskalakis is an expert in the field of sexually transmitted infections (STI) and LGBT public health.
Prior to serving in the White House, Daskalakis was the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of HIV Prevention, according to the statement. He also led the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s infectious disease efforts, and developed a clinical practice focused on serving neglected LGBT communities. Over the course of his career, he’s deployed some unorthodox tactics to serve that demographic.
For instance, Daskalakis operated an HIV and hepatitis screening clinic out of a small office inside a Manhattan S&M club called Paddles, where men could pay $40 to party without their coats or clothes, according to the Atlantic. He also dressed in drag to administer meningitis vaccines at sex clubs and bath houses during an outbreak in New York City, NBC News reported. In an interview with The Atlantic, he claims to have learned his bedside manner from “East Village drag queens.”
Daskalakis was once positively described as a “progressive, radical gay doctor” by Mark Harrington, executive director of Treatment Action Group, an HIV/AIDS organization, according to NBC News. He has also described himself as a “gay health warrior,” according to The Atlantic.
A perusal of Daskalakis’ Instagram profile reveals dozens, if not hundreds, of shirtless photos showcasing the doctor’s physique. Many photos are from LGBT community events like pride parades, and feature the doctor in suggestive clothing.
Daskalakis has made health equity a priority of his work in medicine. “To end the epidemic, we must have a clear focus on the STI and hepatitis [epidemics] and we must address the systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia that hamper our progress,” Daskalakis once said to Advocate, referring to HIV.
He was also described as a “not-so-secret weapon” in the fight against HIV. Daskalakis said he wants to “dismantle stigma” against the LGBT community surrounding HIV, according to HIV Plus Mag. Now, President Joe Biden has brought Daskalakis’ unique methodology to the White House to fight monkeypox.