“I’m from New Orleans. When I was a teenager, I wasn’t really doing anything. I started going online and going to chat rooms and that was pretty much what I did. It led me to do a lot of things I shouldn’t have been doing.”
He connected with people online and was having unprotected sex.
Like many in New Orleans, Ethan’s life was changed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. When the levee system failed, his family’s home was heavily damaged by flooding. He moved to California to live with his uncle.
His intuition prompted him to get tested.
“I just knew that something wasn’t right. I just knew it, deep down inside.
“They told me, if I didn’t hear from them in a couple of weeks, there was probably nothing to worry about. About three weeks went by and honestly, I kind of forgot about it. I had put it in the back of my mind.”
His uncle told him the news.
“I will never forget. The living room was all white. He was standing there, against the white room. I heard him, but I didn’t hear him. I saw his lips moving.
“Honestly, the only thing I could think was that I was going to die.”
Ethan turned to drugs to numb the pain and fear.
“Telling my family was the hardest thing. I mean, you’re 15 and you have to say, ‘I’m HIV positive.’ It was hard.”
In 2006, he returned to Louisiana and became a client and resident of AcadianaCares.
“I was really doing well — I even enrolled in college — but I tried to do too much, too soon. I had a relapse.”
Today, Ethan is back on track with his recovery and managing his HIV diagnosis.
“I have seen miracles here. I’ve seen people get an apartment, a job, go to school, get their kids back. Miracles.”