NEW YORK— Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, Assistant Commissioner of the Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, was honored at the Cielo Gala on May 6 at Cipriani in New York.
The annual benefit gala for the Latino Commission on AIDS paid tribute and recognized the leadership of Dr. Daskalakis with the Esperanza Award. Esperanza in Spanish means hope. The self-proclaimed gay health warrior is tireless in his efforts to expand HIV testing to high-risk communities in New York City.
Commission President Guillermo Chacon said, “Dr. Daskalakis has been a fearless warrior in the battle against HIV and AIDS, and a defender of public health throughout his career. His dedication and initiative to engage patients and those at risk of HIV are personal qualities that give us hope that we will overcome the AIDS epidemic.”
The Esperanza Award recognizes leaders in medical research, public health, and treatment dedicated to fighting HIV and AIDS. The award was established in 1996. Previous honorees include the late Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trias, the first Latina President of the American Public Health Association and women’s health advocate.
When asked about receiving the award, Daskalakis said, “I am overwhelmed by the honor of receiving the Esperanza Award from the Latino Commission on AIDS. The work of the Commission embodies the core of my philosophy of how we will end AIDS in New York City, New York State and beyond: with love and respect. Hand in hand with our community, represented by the Commission, we are all warriors who will prove that love is the most potent antiretroviral. I am humbled and inspired by this great honor.”
Daskalakis discussed with TNH his being a first-generation Greek-American, his parents both from Evrytania, his father from Megalo Chorio and his mother from Karpenisi. The shared vision for fighting HIV and AIDS is what led the Latino Commission to honor Daskalakis.
After posing for photos on the red carpet, the honorees and celebrity guests, including Victor Martinez, Program Manager, Long Beach Center of Bienestar, a community service and advocacy organization, who was awarded the Dennis de Leon Voz de Compromiso Award, and Miss Universe 2015 Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, enjoyed a cocktail reception, silent auction, and dinner, all to raise funds for the battle against HIV and AIDS.
The hosts for the event were Sibila Vargas, NBC4 New York news anchor, and actor J.W. Cortes. The theme of the event was Designing a World Without AIDS. The Grammy-winning Spanish Harlem Orchestra led by Oscar Hernandez provided the live music along with Mariachi band Flor de Toloache and Swiss singer/songwriter Bastian Baker. Jamar Rogers, a finalist on season 2 of The Voice, who is living with HIV, also performed at the gala. The awards presentation followed dinner.
The annual Cielo Gala raises funds to support the Latino Commission on AIDS creating and promoting HIV and AIDS service programs and initiatives aimed at increased awareness, prevention, and treatment education for Hispanic/Latinos, as well as to build capacity among other HIV/AIDS organizations serving Latino communities throughout the United States and the Territories.