One in five people in Ireland do not know what they can do to prevent themselves contracting HIV, new research has shown ahead of World Aids Day this week.
Nearly two-thirds of people (65 per cent) still believe the virus is taboo, according to a new survey.
The survey also shows that while 87 per cent of respondents had never heard of a certain medical prevention, more than one-third (36 per cent) said they would consider using it.
The prevention, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)can significantly reduce the risk of HIV infection through sex when used in conjunction with safe sex practices. Earlier this month, the Government launched a public access programme for the medication.
Ahead of World Aids Day on Sunday, Teva Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures a generic form of PrEP, conducted a survey of Irish adults over 18 years of age, with a national average sample size of 969 people.
“The survey results point to a large knowledge gap of awareness of PrEP, especially within younger age cohorts,” Teva generics director Paul Neill said.
In Ireland, those who attend an approved medical service and are found to be at substantial risk for HIV will be eligible for PrEP at no cost.
The public access programme will initially be available in several STI clinics and hospitals, with €5.4 million allocated for it in Budget 2020.
The Teva research shows that 93 per cent of people believe there needs to be more information on HIV in Ireland.
The vast majority of those surveyed (79 per cent) said the first thing they would do if they contracted HIV would be to visit a clinic. Seventy per cent believe the risks are not considered before engaging in sexual activity.
While PrEP does not protect against other sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy, and is not a cure for HIV, it is recognised as a powerful anti-HIV drug when combined with condoms and other methods, Teva said.
“It’s important that the correct information is put out to those at risk of HIV and the general public,” Mr Neill said.