- Associated Press - Saturday, September 11, 2010

HARARE, ZIMBABWE (AP) - Five Americans who worked with AIDS orphans and patients in Zimbabwe have been arrested in the southern African country and accused of operating without proper medical licenses, their lawyer said Saturday.

Attorney Jonathan Samukange identified one as Gloria Cox Crowell, who is chairwoman of an AIDS program run by the Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, California.

According to its Web site, the church supports the Mother of Peace Orphanage in Zimbabwe, a home outside Harare for children who have lost parents to AIDS, and runs an AIDS clinic there.

Samukange said Cox Crowell and the four other Americans were arrested late Friday along with a Zimbabwean doctor.

He said the six are accused of practicing medicine in Zimbabwe without proper licenses and of running a pharmacy without a pharmacist’s supervision or a pharmacist’s license. He said they have proper licenses and were only supervising a pharmacy that mainly gave out AIDS medications.

A court appearance is expected Monday. Samukange had identified all five as doctors, but it was not clear that all were health workers.

A church official reached by phone in Oakland said she could not discuss the arrests. A man who answered the phone at Cox Crowell’s home in Oakland also declined to comment.

The church’s Web site said its work in Zimbabwe began in 2000, when the late Robert C. Scott, and AIDS activist and doctor in the San Francisco area, and other church members attended an international AIDS conference in neighboring South Africa.

They made a trip to Zimbabwe alongside the conference, and moved by what they saw at Mother of Peace, persuaded their church to support the orphanage.

Scott died in 2009. In his obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle, Cox Crowell was quoted as saying the cemetery at the orphanage “was the biggest motivation” in the decision to support Mother of Peace.

“We saw the little tiny crosses for the children who had died there, and they had all died of complications from AIDS. He (Scott) wanted to do something about that.”

Scott had earlier founded the AIDS Project of the East Bay to support HIV-positive people in Oakland and try to prevent the spread of the virus, and the AIDS program at his church.

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Associated Press Writer Donna Bryson in Johannesburg contributed to this report.