Dr. Demetre Daskalakis cannot fall asleep. Like they have for many physicians, years of late shifts and early rounds have battered his schedule and etched deep grooves beneath his tired, dark brown eyes. But while his colleagues toss and turn, Daskalakis spends his nights patrolling Paddles—a Manhattan S&M club where men check both coats and clothing at the door and pay $40 to wade through faux smoke and loud music in search of a tryst.
Behind the club’s cavernous common room, lined with ornamental shackles and blush-worthy murals, Daskalakis operates a cramped clinic out of makeshift office space. As men queue up for free HIV and Hepatitis C screenings throughout the night, Daskalakis (whom the men fondly refer to as “Dr. Demetre”) offers his humorous, down-to-earth counsel during their 30-minute wait for the results.
“Demetre’s level of engagement is outstanding,” Hunteur Vreeland, a promoter and host at Paddles, told me in the relative privacy of the nightclub’s staff-only bathroom. “He is an amazing fit, a friendly face for people who have questions about their health. He is just what the community needs.”
Dr. Demetre, the self-described “gay health warrior” who fought to bring the clinic to the club, caught some media attention last year when he took to the streets to administer vaccines during New York City’s meningitis scare. In only a matter of days, with the help of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, a New York City-based non-profit, Daskalakis vaccinated hundreds of high-risk patients and helped stave off the meningitis outbreak.