Why should Demetre Daskalakis to be your Queer Health Warrior? He embraces pleasure, rejects fear and spreads positive messages about HIV.
His official title is Deputy commissioner for the Division of Disease Control of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. But how has he found success spreading the good news about PrEP and NYC’s lower HIV-transmission rates? He’s done so in the persona of hunky “Doctor Demetre.” And according to Daskalakis, that’s all part of the plan. “Fear is not an effective way to convince people to take care of their sexual health. People have sex for pleasure, and unless we embrace that, we aren’t going to be able to message strategies that help preserve and improve our population’s sexual health.”
“As a child of the ‘90s, HIV scared the hell out of me, and resulted in having a very difficult relationship to my own sexuality. Having shaken this off personally, I think it is important to shake it off on the population level. We need to stop referring to sex as ‘risk behavior.’ And just embrace it as a normal part of the human experience,” he tells Metrosource. Accordingly, since early in his career development, he’s felt a sense of personal responsibility to improve the health of the LGBTQ community. Daskalakis wants to make it a safer, more loving place – especially for people seeking care and medical services.
“PrEP and the fact that people on treatment with undetectable HIV viral loads cannot transmit HIV – also called U=U – are two game-changers in HIV. For decades, there has been a divide between people living with HIV and HIV negative individuals at risk. The stigma of being a possible transmitter of disease created a serodivide. That seemed almost insurmountable. With new technology and new data, we have seen a path to creating a ‘status-neutral’ world. That encourages people living with HIV to live and love as they choose.”
“I think that we have a ways to go, but we are on the right track to erase the decades of damage created by the fear of HIV.” As for the way his sexy persona has tended to associate him more with tattoos and leather than stethoscopes and lab coats? He says: “I get a thrill when people refer to me as a ‘Queer Health Warrior.’ It is what I have always wanted to be.”
Follow Daskalakis on Twitter at @DrDemetre.
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