HIV-positive congressional hopeful wants to help others with illness

Story highlights

  • If elected, Poe would likely become the first member of Congress who has publicly disclosed that he has the illness
  • He said he had previously declined to go public with the condition because of "fear and stigma"

Washington (CNN)A Florida congressional hopeful who disclosed this week that he is HIV-positive hopes he can help others with the illness.

Bob Poe, a Democrat who is running in Florida's 10th congressional district, announced in a Facebook post that he has had HIV for the past 18 years. If elected, Poe would likely become the first member of Congress who has publicly disclosed that he has the illness.
    "I'd like to share something deeply personal with you today, something that in the past, I've only shared with a few family members," Poe, the former Florida Democratic Party chairman, wrote Thursday. "And that is 18 years ago, I was diagnosed with HIV."
    "Now first let me tell you that I'm perfectly healthy. My doctors tell me that in all likelihood, I'm going to die at the ripe, old age of something very normal. But that's only because I got tested and diagnosed early and then I began a series of treatment," Poe added.
    Poe said he decided to go public with his status after meeting a recently diagnosed resident who feared that her life was over. He told her that her life was not over and directed her to where she could get treatment.
    He said he had previously declined to go public with his condition because of "fear and stigma."
    Poe told CNN on Saturday he is holding an event next week in Orlando to raise awareness for those with the illness.
    "We're going to have a gathering of community health providers and community leaders next Friday in Orlando to really discuss what we can do to eliminate the stigma that keeps people from getting tested and treated," Poe said.