The role of nurses in raising community awareness about HIV/AIDS is well-reported. However, little is known about the practice of Jordanian nurses and the role they play in the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS. This interpretive ethnographic study sought to illuminate the role of primary care nurses and examine the influence of HIV/AIDS on their practice. The study was undertaken in Jordan in three rural and three urban primary health-care centres. Data collection included participant observation, key informant interviews and document analysis. These data informed the development of descriptive ethnographic accounts that allowed for the subsequent identification of common and divergent themes reflective of factors recognized as influencing the practice of the nurse participants. The findings indicate that the rhetoric offered by all levels of administration and endorsed in policy is not reflective of the reality of practice. Poor resources and educational preparation, a limited nursing skill mix and access to professional development, lack of nursing leadership and role models, cultural beliefs and geographic isolation are factors that reduced the capacity of the primary care nurses to raise awareness and, therefore, influence the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS.