BACKGROUND : There is increasing demand for HIV self-tests, and nurses play an important role in counselling and assisting in the testing process. Traditional lecture-based nursing education has not typically focused on self-testing procedures, and there is little understanding of clients' experiences of self-testing. OBJECTIVE : To understand the experiential learning (EL) of student nurses during the process of self-testing for HIV. METHODS : This study used a qualitative design. METHODS : A college in northern Taiwan. METHODS : We recruited a purposive sample of 30 nursing students. METHODS : The OraQuick self-test was used as the self-testing tool in this study. After participants used the OraQuick self-test, they underwent a semi-structured interview during the post-test counselling period. All interview data were subjected to line-by-line content analysis. RESULTS : We extracted nine themes of nursing students' experiences during experiential learning of HIV self-test. In the pre-test stage, they recalled possible risk behaviors for HIV infection, decided to complete the self-test alone or asked for significant others to accompany them, and endured emotional fluctuations immediately prior to the test. When waiting for the test results, they felt isolated from the outside world. Some participants also began questioning the accuracy and safety of the test, and either viewed the results immediately or later on. In the post-test stage, some participants reported being uncertain about the results. Participants reported a greater understanding of the personal impact of testing and revealed their needs for support. Some identified a sense of loss and linked this to the rapid and direct delivery of test results. CONCLUSIONS : Our results can be used to guide HIV-related education courses and prevention programs. Experiential learning has the potential to improve HIV pre and post-test counselling, as nurses develop both clinical knowledge and personal insight of the testing process.