Bob Poe, the former chair of the Florida Democratic Party and candidate for Congressional District 10, revealed in a video that he was diagnosed with HIV 18 years ago.
Poe says that he is healthy because he got tested and diagnosed early, but he wanted to share his condition publicly to "remove the fear, the stigma and the shame that goes with this."
"It's those things that keep people from getting the diagnosis and the treatment that they need to live perfectly healthy lives like I have," he says. "I have a motto in my life: If you want to make a difference, you have to be the difference. And so today, I'm trying to be that difference in this community so that we can begin to solve this problem once and forever."
Poe is currently running in the Democratic primary for this seat against Florida Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings and attorney Fatima Fahmy. Watermark
reports that if Poe is elected to Congress, he would be the first openly HIV-positive member.
Poe told Watermark
he met a woman in downtown Orlando who had just tested positive for HIV and didn't know what resources were available.
"I just wanted to hug her and tell her that she wasn’t alone, that I’m HIV and that I’m happy and healthy and she will be too," Poe told the publication. "But I couldn’t. I couldn’t in that moment. Afterwards it became clear to me. I have an obligation to do this if I’m going to be a public servant. There’s no one else in elective office, that I know of at least, with the same opportunity to talk about [HIV] from a personal perspective. My encounter with that woman, who was just looking for reassurance, took me over the edge."