The impact of HIV/AIDS is closely intertwined with imbalances of power and access to resources among different groups of people in different parts of the world. This paper seeks to interpret HIV/AIDS in the context of globalisation. It takes as its starting point the scientific controversy over the origins of HIV/AIDS in the human population. It examines the relationship between the virus, signification, social exclusion and inequality. Gender differences and issues of identity are considered. Theoretical considerations are made regarding modernity and post-modernity and the changed role of the nation-state. It is argued that global and local inequalities are reproduced in the context of the disease. These inequalities can be understood in terms of both the material processes characteristic of modernity and the struggles over boundaries and borders that have been a defining feature of post-modernity.