Background: Studies have established that negative perceptions of people living with HIV/AIDS exist among nursing students throughout the world, perceptions which can be detrimental to the delivery of high-quality nursing care. Objectives: The purpose of this research was to explore socio-cultural influences on the perceptions of nursing students towards caring for people living with HIV/AIDS. Research design: The study was guided by stigma theory, a qualitative descriptive research approach was adopted. Data collected via semi-structured interviews were thematically analysed. Participants and research context: Participants were 21 international and Australian undergraduate nursing students enrolled in a Bachelor of Nursing programme at an Australian university. Ethical considerations: Ethical approval was granted by the Social and Behavioural Research Ethics Committee at the study university. Participation was entirely voluntary; informed consent was obtained before the study commenced; confidentiality and anonymity were assured. Findings: Three major themes were found: blame, othering and values. Complex and interrelated factors constructed participant perceptions of people living with HIV/AIDS, perceptions underscored by the prevailing culturally construed blame and othering associated with HIV/AIDS. The study found discordance between the negative personal beliefs and perceptions some nursing students have towards people living with HIV/AIDS, and the professional values expected of them as Registered Nurses. Discussion: There was considerable commonality between this and previous studies on how homosexuality and illicit drug use were perceived and stigmatised, correlating with the blame directed towards people living with HIV/AIDS. These perceptions indicated some nursing students potentially risked not fulfilling the ethical and professional obligations the Registered Nurse. Conclusion: Nursing curriculum should be strengthened in relation to comprehending the meaning of being stigmatised by society. Educational institutions need to work towards enhancing strategies that assist nursing students to reconcile any incongruity between their personal beliefs and requisite professional nursing values.