Will Florida’s Bob Poe be our first HIV+ Congressman?

Bob Poe

Bob Poe campaign photo

Former Florida state democratic party chair Bob Poe is running for Congress in the state’s 10th congressional district. Yesterday, the candidate publicly revealed that he is HIV positive.

In an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Poe explained why he decided to go public with his status. While Poe was diagnosed in 1998, he didn’t feel the need to disclose his status to strangers, but an encounter on the campaign trail with a woman who had recently tested positive changed his mind.

She “thought she had a death sentence,” Poe told the Sentinel. “I really just wanted to hug her and let her know that I, too, have HIV, and that I’ve been able to live out all of my hopes and all of my dreams, and she could, too.”

Poe says he doesn’t think the announcement will hurt his campaign, but he’s willing to take the chance.

“I had to go through that decision-making process. There are some people who have told me that this would be very politically damaging to my political career… but if it was, so be it,” Poe said.

Poe, who married his partner last year, doesn’t know how he was infected, but says that’s even more impetus to champion better funding for HIV testing, prevention and treatment.

“It was a very scary time,” he said. “I remember, when I got the diagnosis, it was very difficult to believe. It was like getting the air knocked out of you.”

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