By STEVE LeBLANC
BOSTON — State Rep. Carl Sciortino said Tuesday he is HIV-positive and plans to step down to become the new executive director of The AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts.
“As a gay man living with HIV, I am honored to lead one of the country’s oldest and most effective organizations in the battle against this disease which has raged on over 30 years,” Sciortino said in a written statement.
Sciortino did not indicate how long he has been HIV-positive. He said he also wants to help “reduce the stigma that is still so closely associated with this disease.” He will resign April 4.
The 35-year-old Medford Democrat has been a vocal advocate for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. AIDS Action said Sciortino will become the first person living with HIV to lead the organization since its founding in 1982.
Sciortino said his top goal as head of the group is continue to work to lower the rate of new HIV diagnoses in Massachusetts.
AIDS Action Board of Directors Chairman Douglas Spencer praised Sciortino’s work on social justice issues and his “advocacy on behalf of those infected, affected, and at risk for HIV.”
“Even with health reform and better access to care, there is still much to do to prevent the spread of HIV,” Spencer said.
AIDS Action provides services to people in Massachusetts living with an HIV diagnosis, including counseling and testing, needle exchange, mental health counseling, housing assistance, and legal services.
Sciortino, who was first elected in 2004, earlier this year launched a failed campaign for Edward Markey’s old U.S. House seat after Markey was elected to the Senate.
Sciortino was best known in that campaign for a television ad featuring him playing up his liberal credentials during a light-hearted back-and-forth with his tea party dad.
Democratic House Speaker Robert DeLeo thanked Sciortino for his service, calling him “a passionate, committed and tenacious public servant, led by a strong allegiance to his ideals.”
A legislative aide to DeLeo said there won’t be any special election to fill Sciortino’s seat or any other seats that become vacant this cycle, pointing to the proximity of the April 29 signature filing deadline, cost-pressures on municipalities and a discussion DeLeo had with Massachusetts Secretary William Galvin, who oversees elections.
Legislative staff will be on hand to help handle district matters and respond to constituents until a new representative takes office.
Sciortino is the latest in a series of state lawmakers who have resigned to take other jobs, including former Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein, a Revere Democrat, who resigned in January to take a job as government affairs manager for the Boston Beer Company.
Former state Rep. Martin Walsh stepped down after being elected Boston Mayor.