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September 11, 2010

American Doctors Held in Zimbabwe [dated Sept. 12]: "Five Americans — two doctors, two nurses and an organizer — who carried donated AIDS drugs to Zimbabwe for distribution to the poor were arrested Thursday and remained jailed in Harare on Saturday on a charge of dispensing the medicine without the supervision of a pharmacist or proper licenses, their lawyer said. ...

"The Americans belong to the Allen Temple Baptist Church AIDS Ministry in Oakland, Calif. The church serves a predominantly African-American congregation. Three or four times a year since 2000, members have paid their own way to Zimbabwe to give antiretroviral medicine, vitamins, clothing and food baskets to impoverished people with AIDS.

"The epidemic is severe throughout Zimbabwe and the country’s broken health system fails to treat most people in need.

"On this trip, the team had brought a four-month supply of antiretroviral drugs for about 800 people with AIDS, some of them orphaned children, in Harare and Mutoko, a rural district.

"Arnold Perkins, the retired public health director in Alameda County, Calif., said in a telephone interview from California that he had made the trip six times and seen skeletal AIDS patients restored to health by the medicine. The arrest of the team there “breaks my heart,” he said.

"'If this work stops, it’s a human tragedy,' he said. 'People will die. That’s a fact.'"