Demetre Daskalakis, The Radical Greek-American Doctor Fighting AIDS in New York

Dr. Demetre Daskalakis in New York City. Photo from Facebook

Dr. Demetre Daskalakis has been described as the doctor partly responsible for the decreasing rates of HIV in New York City. This is no exaggeration, as indeed, Daskalakis with his “status-neutral care” strategy, has helped make HIV diagnosis rates in the city drop significantly.

Since 2013, the Greek-American physician – who is also a gay activist – serves as deputy commissioner for the Division of Disease Control at New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. He is also an assistant professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital.

The physician’s work has made Mark Harrington, the executive director of the AIDS/HIV organization “Treatment Action Group,” call him “a radical gay doctor.”

Through his devotion to the cause of fighting the disease and his medical expertise, Dr. Daskalakis has helped implement the city’s Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) program, which has had excellent results in preventing HIV infection while making tremendous improvements in the lives of people affected by HIV.

The “status-neutral care” strategy means applying care to the initial patient regardless of their HIV status. This type of care aims to not only reduce the stigma of HIV but to encourage the patient to speak openly with the therapist and discuss sexual health, HIV risk and prevention options.

Dr. Daskalakis says that the overall aim is to completely eliminate transmission of the disease with the use of antiretroviral drugs so as to stop adding to the pool of HIV-infected individuals.

The PrEP program has already proven to be a life-saver. Patients who were close to dying from AIDS have received a new lease on life, while others who are carrying the AIDS virus can live a normal life.

The Greek-American doctor was born in Washington, D.C. but his parents hail from the Evrytania region of Greece.

He graduated from Columbia University in 1995, and received his medical degree from the NYU School of Medicine in 1999. He earned his Masters in Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health in 2012.

His post-graduate medical training took place at the Harvard-Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, and his chief residency was also at the same facility. Daskalakis was granted a fellowship from 2003-2005 to work at Harvard-Partners Healthcare Boston, in the field of Infectious Diseases.

The Greek-American physician has 16 years of wide-ranging experience and practice in Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases. He has special expertise in five areas, including AIDS, HIV Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, HIV Infections, and Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART).

Daskalakis was in Athens, Greece last week after being invited by the Onassis Foundation Stegi to be the keynote speaker for their second annual AIDS awareness program, entitled “I’m Positive.”