Nine in 10 young people rarely or never think about HIV when making decisions over their sex lives, a BBC poll shows.
Safe sex can prevent HIV transmission
The findings from a survey of 1,500 people comes as the BBC and Terrence Higgins Trust launch a two-month UK campaign to raise awareness about HIV.
The poll also showed "worrying" numbers believed myths such as HIV could be caught from kissing and toilet seats.
Experts believe the 16 to 24 age group have a lax attitude as they missed out on the big HIV campaigns of the 1980s.
The BBC has teamed up with the HIV charity to develop a website called GI Jonny, which includes facts and information about HIV and interactive games.
The next two months will also see a host of programmes across radio and TV on HIV, kickstarting with a BBC Two documentary series presented by Stephen Fry, designed to raise awareness among the young.
Health Protection Agency statistics have show that HIV and sexually transmitted infection rates among under 24-year-olds have been increasing for the past 10 years and now represent 5% of all new cases.
The survey, which included over 250 16 to 24-year-olds, showed that 89% rarely or never think about HIV when making decisions about their sex lives.
And 41% consider themselves to be at no risk of getting HIV.
Knowledge about how HIV is passed on was poor. Over half believed it could be caught from kissing, while just under half said it could be passed on from toilet seats.
Elizabeth McKay, of BBC Learning, said: "Levels of ignorance about HIV are at an all-time high among the age group most likely to catch a sexually transmitted infection.
"This is a generation that has not grown up with the big health campaigns about HIV and it shows in the lack of concern and knowledge they have."
And Genevieve Clark, of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said the findings of the poll were worrying and it was essential campaigners engaged with young people.
"Too many young people are leaving school not knowing how to protect themselves from HIV and other STIs."