In recent days the Biden administration’s monkeypox response deputy coordinator, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, has been attacked by right-wing figures and media. The reason? His thirst traps, his tattoos, and his sexuality.
The conservative media outlet The Daily Caller specifically targeted Daskalakis and his history of being open about being gay as well as being directly involved on the front lines of health care.
What’s ensued is a wave of homophobic attacks against Daskalakis.
The reporter who wrote the Caller piece tweeted, “Meet Joe Biden's monkeypox czar: a ‘progressive, radical gay' doctor who performs HIV screenings in sex clubs and gives meningitis shots in drag. Now he's in the White House.”
He then tweeted several pictures pulled from Daskalakis’s personal Instagram account, writing, “Out of nearly 2,000 posts on Dr. Daskalakis' Instagram account, there are hundreds (maybe over 1,000?) of him shirtless.”
For the most part, the piece and the tweets have been called sensationalistic, with many coming to the defense of Daskalakis as a doctor and official who knows how to get the job done.
The picture tweeted above was actually from our sibling publication Plus, which covers HIV and health news. Daskalakis, who also leads the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's HIV/AIDS prevention program, was the cover star.
Trolls, however, have targeted his tattoos shown on his personal Instagram page. Of the many tattoos, Daskalakis has one with a pentacle.
That’s what made others on social media lose it. A gay doctor posting thirst traps and baring a pentacle tattoo? Many came to the conclusion that he’s a satanist.
“I am certainly not a satanist,” Daskalakis tells The Advocate.
And why do people think he is? “It's because I wear high-fashion harnesses by Zana Bayne,” he cheekily replies.
The harness has been making a splash in the fashion world for more than a year now. Also, the pentagram (or really a pentacle, since it has a circle around it) has been around for thousands of years, even predating Christianity. The HIV prevention specialist has tattoos including other iconography, including a more Christian-oriented one. Maybe it’s all about balance?
While his shirtless, harness-wearing images on Instagram were available for public eyes before, Daskalakis’s account is now set to private.
Daskalakis said recently that he was chosen for the MPV response deputy coordinator role to specifically work on outreach to the LGBTQ+ community. “My primary responsibility is doing right by the LGBTQIA+ community and to make sure that there is a higher level of coordination on all fronts moving in the right direction,” he told The Advocate.
The main group affected by the MPV outbreak has been gay, bisexual, and queer men and men who have sex with men. There have been 21,504 total cases in the U.S., according to the CDC.
Daskalakis, a leading public health expert, has been director of the CDC’s Division of HIV Prevention since 2020. He is widely known as an expert on health issues affecting LGBTQ+ people. He previously oversaw the management of infectious diseases for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, one of the largest such departments in the nation — including serving as incident commander for the city’s COVID-19 response.
To learn more about MPV, visit the CDC's website here.