A tempest that has been raging in the outwardly dignified world of academia is set to die down with the publication today of three papers in Nature and one in Science. The story — about the origin of AIDS — is one of intrigue, mystery and death. Mostly, however, it is about death.

AIDS is the world’s leading infectious killer and the fourth-commonest cause of death. More than 30 million people have AIDS, and more than 19 million people, most of them Africans, have died of the disease.

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