Four American citizens, who are part of a Christian volunteer health service of the Allen Temple AIDS Ministry based in California, were arrested last Thursday in Harare, allegedly for disbursing antiretroviral drugs without a license. On Monday they were each charged $200 bail and released. It is anticipated that their case will be heard later in September.
The group includes one doctor, two nurses and a community volunteer. Two Zimbabwean doctors working with them were also arrested on related charges. The group operated from two clinics, one in Mutoko and another in Harare, where they worked primarily with AIDS orphans and HIV positive people. But the sudden arrests aroused suspicion as the organisation has operated in the country for the past decade.
Lawyer Jonathan Samukange said: They were working at a place called the Centre for Aids. There was a misunderstanding there so they moved. We suspect that the people from the old place they used to operate from are the ones who went to the police to make a report to say these people are operating without proper documentation. We suspect the whole thing was not police intiated, but initiated by a jealous previous partner.
The Centre is a Harare-based charity that provides counselling and information to people with HIV/AIDS. When asked to comment on the allegations, the Centres Executive Director Freddy Kachote vehemently denied his organisation had any involvement in the arrests.
When asked why the workers legal representative would single them out of all the organisations, Kachote replied: Why would we speak to police? We have had a long stranding relationship with the Allen Temple Church. We have been hosting them for a long time.
However Samkange made it clear that the relationship had broken down.
He said the Americans plan to go back home as soon as the case is over. He added that because the drugs have been taken by police as exhibits, they will not be distributed to the patients who badly need them.
Zimbabwes broken health system is failing to contain the Aids epidemic and relies heavily on international and non-governmental organisations for help. Recently there were reports that HIV positive children who cannot get antiretroviral drugs now have to cross the border to South Africa to get medication.
If the allegations against the Centre are true, it will be disappointment for many who have supported the organisation which was founded by the late Lynde Francis, an ardent and respected Aids activist. She worked hard with other Aids charities to organise help for people living with Aids.Post published in: Analysis