A Zimbabwean court has bailed six health workers arrested and accused of treating Aids patients without proper permission, the US embassy in Harare said yesterday.
The workers, all volunteers for a US church group, face fines and being deported for allegedly treating Aids patients without medical licenses. A member of the church's Aids ministry believes soured relations with a local Zimbabwean organization are behind the arrests, according to a New York Times report.
A doctor, two nurses and a community worker from the US along with a New Zealander and Zimbabwean were arrested on Thursday and spent the weekend in custody at Harare central police station, which is notorious for overcrowding.
The team, which was working at an Aids orphanage, is linked to the Allen Temple Aids Ministry Baptist church in Oakland, California.
A Zimbabwean magistrate ordered them to pay about £130 bail and to reappear in court on 27 September. They also had to hand in their passports and to live at their Mother of Peace orphanage outside the capital, Harare until their trial. They worked in two clinics, one in Mutoko and one in Harare, where they worked primarily with "Aids orphans and HIV-positive patients for the past decade," the US embassy said. They all deny charges of operating without proper medical licences.
Theophous Reagans, a minister at the church, said it had been working in the south eastern African country for longer than a decade but this was the first time questions had been raised over licensing. He said that one of the Americans lived in Zimbabwe and the others visited three or four times a year, paying their own way to help at a home for Aids orphans their church had adopted.
Police said the church workers were being questioned about operating an unlicensed clinic and dispensing medicine without a pharmacist's supervision, according to state-run Zimbabwe newspaper, The Herald.
Police spokesman, Augustine Zimbili, told the paper: "It is our duty to ensure that all clinics and medical institutions are registered for easy monitoring. There is a risk of dispensation of expired drugs. When premises are not licensed, it is difficult to check if the law is being complied with."
But the volunteer’s lawyer said that they did have proper licences and were supervising a pharmacy that mainly gave out Aids medications.
Zimbabwe has one of the worst HIV rates in the world, and thousands of orphans whose parents have died of Aids.