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Florida Congressional Candidate Bob Poe Says He's HIV-Positive

A candidate for Central Florida's 10th Congressional District, Bob Poe, revealed Thursday that he is HIV-positive.

Poe, 61, and a former state Democratic Party chair, made the announcement in an interview with Watermark Magazine of Orlando and also posted a video to his Facebook page.

"Now first, let me tell you that I'm perfectly healthy," he says in the video. "My doctors tell me that in all likelihood I'm going to live to a 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 treatments."

Poe says that he was diagnosed with HIV 18 years ago, but until now had only shared that with a few family members. He says he's making it public now because of a recent encounter with a woman who is also HIV-positive.

"Let's call her Linda," he says. "Linda told me that she had been recently diagnosed with HIV and she thought she had a death sentence. I told her that she didn't, and I even shared with her where she could go to get the resources that she needed."

Poe acknowledged that he has to come to terms with his own fear and stigma with regard to HIV.

"So now it's time to come out and share this with you publicly, so that we can begin to have this discussion and remove the fear and the stigma and the shame that goes with this. Because 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 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.

According to the Watermark Magazine interview, if he's successful in the election to the U.S. House of Representatives in Florida's 10th District, Poe "would be the first openly HIV-positive person elected to Congress."

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