DHAP Director: New Temporary Role

Dear Colleague,

March 19, 2021

I have been temporarily assigned to serve as the Senior Vaccine Equity Lead of CDC’s COVID Response. I will be reporting to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky and working closely with leadership in the White House, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In this role, I will primarily be engaging with states, territories, localities, and tribes to maximize vaccine equity and facilitate real-time reporting of CDC vaccine equity data, among other duties. During my absence, Dr. Irene Hall, the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention (DHAP) Deputy Director for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Science, has agreed to serve as Acting Director for the Division.

In an unprecedented emergency such as the current pandemic, it is necessary for everyone in the medical and public health communities to apply our collective expertise in an effort to get children back into schools, people back to work safely, and to begin to recover from the societal damage suffered as a result of COVID-19. For all of us in public health, it has been “all hands on deck” for the past year, and many CDC staff have played vital roles in the COVID-19 response while also continuing to strengthen our critical work in HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB prevention, as well as adolescent health. When I worked in New York City, I served as the incident commander for the city’s Department of Health for COVID-19. While the timing for my new role at CDC may not be ideal, this detail will draw heavily on the work I was doing in my previous leadership role in New York. My new role will also draw upon my personal and professional dedication to achieving health equity in the United States, as well as my current work as the new Director of DHAP.

As we have seen in the HIV prevention space, long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put many people from racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19. Racial and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately represented among COVID-19 cases, as well as among HIV diagnoses. Social determinants of health such as poverty and unequal access to high-quality healthcare influence a wide range of health and quality-of-life outcomes and continue to drive inequities. To achieve health equity, barriers must be removed so that everyone has a fair opportunity to be as healthy as possible. While ending the HIV epidemic is critically important, responding to COVID-19 commands my immediate attention and I am committed to helping to end this pandemic and the inequities that exist for both diseases.

My commitment to DHAP and to Ending the Epidemic (EHE) are unwavering. HIV prevention is my life’s work and passion. This deployment will take me away temporarily, but I am confident that CDC and our partners will continue to advance this work in my absence under Dr. Hall’s proven and capable leadership.

Additionally, Dr. Jonathan Mermin, Director of the National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention (NCHHSTP), who was also called to serve as the Acting Director of CDC’s Center for Preparedness and Response, will return to lead the work of the Center in mid-April. He, alongside Dr. Hall, will continue to advance the activities of EHE and ensure HIV prevention remains at the forefront of public health.

Thank you for your ongoing efforts and understanding during this critical public health response.


/Demetre Daskalakis/
Demetre Daskalakis, MD, MPH
Director, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

/Jonathan Mermin/
Jonathan H. Mermin, MD, MPH
Rear Admiral and Assistant Surgeon General, USPHS
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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Page last reviewed: March 23, 2021