Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) remains a highly stigmatised condition for people living with HIV (PLWH) and people living close to them (PLC) globally. The research objectives for this study were to explore and describe how HIV stigma and disclosure experiences impact the lives of PLWH and to explore whether there are differences between experiences in urban and rural settings. A qualitative approach was followed and participants were selected through purposive voluntary sampling. Data collection took place using in–depth interviews with 23 PLWH, 11 of whom resided in an urban setting in North–West, South Africa, and 12 resided in a rural setting in the same province. The data were manually analysed through open coding. The HIV stigma experiences expressed by PLWH depicted negative behavioural patterns and attitudes towards them, fear from the community of being infected by PLWH and lastly negative self–judgement by PLWH themselves. During disclosure, PLWH were unsure and they described it as a" stressful event. They cautiously considered to whom to disclose their condition and what benefits disclosure will hold. They further had to handle forced disclosure due to being identifiable in health–care settings. HIV stigma and related "disclosure practices remained a problem, which detrimentally affected treatment and support efforts. Recommendations focused on HIV stigma reduction in the community that needed to involve PLWH and PLC.