A total of 562 nursing students from Manila, the Philippines participated in a quasi-experimental design study which assessed the comparative effectiveness of didactic teaching and experiential learning. A 3-hour training session with identical content on AIDS epidemiology, infection control, socio-ethical issues related to HIV infection and nursing care of patients in the hospital and in the community was given by the same two teachers to the two groups, one using an experiential learning approach and the other a didactic teaching approach. Both groups had a person with HIV/AIDS narrating his/her life story and answering questions. A control group received no education. Significant differences were found in a 2 x 3 (pre-/post-test x teaching method) ANOVA. Knowledge post-test scores were significantly higher for the two teaching groups while there was no change in the control group. Students in the experiential group had significantly higher scores than the didactic group on the three knowledge post-tests. In the attitude tests, only the scale measuring fear of attracting HIV had significantly higher post-test scores than pre-test scores but there was no significant difference between the didactic teaching and experiential learning groups. The use of experiential learning is recommended in training situations where experienced facilitators are available.