HIV AIDS Stigma and education

Omar Mayes

Omar Mayes was born in Daytona Beach, FL and is a fraternal twin and the second oldest of five children. Omar grew up in a broken home due to a father that was an alcoholic. He graduated from Mainland Senior High School then joined the United States Marine Corps where he served for eight years.

Omar was diagnosed with AIDS in November 2004 with a CD4 (T cell) count of less than 20.    The average healthy person’s CD4 or T cell count ranges from 1500 to 1000.  He was very ill and basically on his death bed; he had pneumonia, PCP, and was on FIVE liters of oxygen.  Understandably, Omar was not coping well. He was afraid, depressed, grieving, and felt all alone. He wondered how a healthy veteran like himself who had not been very promiscuous could have contracted this horrible disease. Once his physical health returned, Omar turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with the fear and despair.

In June of 2009, Omar lost his mother very unexpectedly to ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome). Still in his addiction, Omar lost his main supporter and safety net, and it left him fearful of his future. Forced with some very difficult decisions, he found his way to a Twelve Step program a few months later.  Since September 2009, Omar has been clean and sober with the help of a Higher Power, a sponsor, and the Steps.

Omar has experienced a great deal of discrimination, judgment, and ridicule for being gay, and for how he speaks, acts, and carries himself. Surprisingly enough, discrimination exists in the gay community towards effeminate guys because they are “clock-able,” i.e. the average person can guess they are gay because they dress in an androgynous manner or not quite urban enough. Omar Mayes was included in the FACES OF HIV campaign which is a statewide prevention campaign put forth by the Florida Department of Health.