One in five people are unaware of any HIV-prevention methods.
Also, seven out of 10 believe that the HIV risk is not considered by people before they engage in sexual activity.
The findings are from a survey published ahead of World Aids Day, which is Sunday.
Earlier this month, a new HIV-prevention treatment became available free of charge to those at substantial risk — Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a medication taken by HIV-negative people to reduce infection risk.
However, most people (87%) have never heard of PrEP, according to the survey conducted for Teva Pharmaceuticals Ireland, the first drugs firm to bring PrEP to the Irish market.
The introduction of a publicly-funded PrEP programme is a significant advancement in preventing HIV infection.
The incidence of HIV continues to increase in Ireland, with 489 people newly diagnosed with the virus so far this year, a 6% year-on-year increase.
The survey found that most people (70%) believe PrEP should be available free of charge.
The new HIV prevention medication, together with safe sex practices, has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of HIV infection through sex, particularly for those at risk.
While the vast majority of people (97%) still regard HIV as a taboo subject, most (93%) believe there should be more information about it.
Of those who are aware of HIV-prevention methods, only 2% mentioned PrEP. And more than a third of those surveyed (36%) would consider taking the medication.
Teva’s generics director, Paul Neill, said the survey highlights a large PrEP knowledge gap, especially among younger people, who are considerably less aware of any HIV prevention methods:
However, it is also important that those using the medication visit their healthcare provider once every three months to ensure the medication is working as effectively as possible.
“Further work is now needed to increase education and awareness of PrEP to ensure that patients have a better understanding of the healthcare regime that must support PrEP, such as regular sexual health testing. Teva will also work to expand awareness and knowledge of PrEP,” said Mr Neill.
The pharmaceutical firm, based in Swords, Co Dublin, has engaged in consumer research to highlight the need for increased awareness of the growing rate of HIV and of preventative methods such as PrEP.
Social media star Rob Kenny has agreed to be Teva’s ambassador, because he wants to raise aware- ness of the risk of contracting HIV.