When Phillip “Terry’’ Ragon, a wealthy Cambridge, Mass., entrepreneur, agreed to accompany Dr. Bruce Walker to South Africa 12 years ago, Ragon tried to lower expectations. During the long flight, he told Walker, a prominent AIDS researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, that he considers many charities, so chances were slim that he’d donate money to his cause.

All that changed after three days spent visiting doctors in the large coast city of Durban as they treated patients dying from the disease.

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