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Ironzetta Thomas found out she was HIV positive in the last place she could ever imagine — in jail.

In 2006, huddled into a cell with about 50 other female inmates, Thomas was taken to a private room and given a mouth swab as part of the D.C. jail’s voluntary HIV testing program. About 30 minutes later, she got the bad news.

“That was the worst day of my life, because I couldn’t even get to a phone to call anybody,” said Thomas, 56, who contracted the disease from a former boyfriend.

Thomas’s experience is not unusual. The District administers voluntary HIV tests to all inmates upon admission, although they can opt out. But a bill proposed by council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) would change that process by requiring mandatory HIV testing for all D.C. inmates.

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