Bob Poe, running for election to the U.S. House of Representatives in Florida's 10th District, has come out as HIV positive.

"Eighteen years ago, I was diagnosed with HIV," Poe stated in a press release. "Don't worry - I'm perfectly healthy, and I feel great. But, that's largely because I got tested - and as soon as I was diagnosed, I started treatment."

If elected, Poe may be the first openly HIV-positive person in Congress.

According to Poe, there is "a lot of fear, shame, and stigma surrounding HIV - and it's totally unnecessary."

He added: "I've always said, if you want to make a difference, you have to be the difference. And I didn't want to wait until I get to Congress to be that difference."

There are few openly HIV-positive politicians, and Poe will be the second to run for Congress.

"Bob shattered 18 years of stigma when he publicly disclosed his being a person living with HIV," Michael Emanuel Rajner, AIDS activist, told SFGN. "He knows first hand the burden of keeping one's HIV status a secret and fearing rejection and the harmful impact that can have in preventing someone from seeking out the care, treatment and support needed to beat HIV."

In 2013, Poe helped Rajner by organizing a meeting between him and Governor Charlie Christ to talk about HIV. "I realize how powerful of a moment that was to have Bob be a champion and find some way to have the courage to make sure HIV was on the agenda." 

"Having a person living openly with HIV to serve in Congress would be incredibly powerful to begin to change the course of HIV not only in Florida and the United States, but also globally."


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