And yet over a third of people said they’d consider taking it.
Back in October, it was announced that the Irish government was going to start rolling out a public access programme for people to get access to pre-exposure prophylaxis, also known as PrEP.
PrEP is an anti-retroviral drug taken by HIV-negative people which, if used consistently, can help to dramatically reduce the risk of acquiring the virus.
Ahead of the programme, Teva Pharmaceuticals commissioned a study conducted by Core Research, which found that 87% of people were completely unaware as to what PrEP is, although 36% of people said they would consider using it.
The survey asked Irish adults over the age of 18, with a national average sample size of 969 people. It looked at the Irish public’s understanding about HIV, PrEP, HIV and STI clinics and HIV prevention measures.
Despite low public awareness levels around PrEP, with one in five people being unaware of ways to prevent HIV, and out of the ones who did only 2% of people mentioned the drug, 70% of people supported the drug being available free of charge.
Other key findings from the research found that 93% of people believed that more information on HIV was required in Ireland, while 70% of people believed that the risk of contracting HIV wasn’t taken into consideration before sex.
Speaking about the results, Paul Neill, the Generics Director for Teva Pharmaceuticals said: “The survey results point to a large knowledge gap of awareness of PrEP, especially within younger age cohorts who are considerably less aware of any HIV prevention methods.
“It’s important that the correct information is put out to those at risk of HIV and the general public.
“PrEP has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of HIV infection in conjunction with safe sex practices, particularly for those deemed at high risk, such as gay and bisexual men, and transgender women.
“Equally, it is important that those using PrEP are going for check-ups with their healthcare provider once every three months to ensure that the medication is working as effectively as possible for them.
“The government’s introduction of a PrEP programme represents an important statement on the value of preventative healthcare versus curative treatment.
“At a time of stretched health budgets, when our health services have so many competing priorities, medicines such as PrEP can make a huge contribution to keeping people healthy and ultimately help to reduce healthcare costs.
“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.”