Known for his activism, an NYC public health doctor will play a national role
Positively Aware Rick Guasco
Rick Guasco

New York City’s deputy commissioner for the disease control has been named the new head of HIV prevention for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Dr. Demetre Daskalakis will become the director of the Division of HIV/AID AIDS Prevention of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STDs, and TB Prevention (NCHHSTP) on December 21. Known for his work in creating and leading many HIV and STI programs in New York City, Dr. Daskalakis is credited for reducing HIV rates in the city to historic lows.

“We are excited for him to bring this leadership and experience to DHAP to advance meaningful research, guide surveillance and programs, support and implement effective policy, and ultimately prevent HIV infections and increase health equity across the United States,” said NCHHSTP director Jonathan H. Mermin, MD, MPH, in a statement.

As deputy commissioner for the Division of Disease Control at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Dr. Daskalakis directed the city’s infectious disease control programs, including HIV, tuberculosis, sexually transmitted infections, vaccine-preventable diseases, and general communicable diseases. He was the department’s incident commander during the city’s measles outbreak in 2018–2019, and for the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Growing up in Arlington, Virginia, he attended NYU’s School of Medicine, completing his residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. He completed clinical infectious disease fellowships at the Brigham and Women’s Massachusetts General Hospital combined program, receiving his master’s from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He has written or co-authored more than 50 scholarly articles, earning awards from the Treatment Action Group, the Latino Commission on AIDS, and GMHC.

Dr. Daskalakis began his medical career as an attending physician in New York’s Bellevue Hospital, where he spearheaded several public health programs focused on community HIV testing and prevention. He has been a staunch advocate, addressing stigma, key social determinants of health, and making prevention options such as PrEP accessible and affordable to all.

“We have the tools at our hands to prevent infection and to keep people living with HIV healthy,” he said. “Our barrier to achieving this vision is no longer science, it is systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia.”