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Sharon S. Weir, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor, Epidemiology

Weir focuses on research to identify and characterize local sexual and injecting drug use networks in resource poor settings among the most vulnerable populations and subsequently to translate those findings into strategies to improve health and prevent the spread of HIV.

Weir focuses on public health approaches to identify and characterize local sexual and injecting drug use networks in resource poor settings. This information can guide program outreach to improve access to HIV treatment and decrease the transmission of HIV. Some of the people unaware of their HIV infection are members of mobile, stigmatized, and hard-to-reach populations who occupy central positions in HIV transmission networks. Because many people do not know their HIV status and because many of those who are infected are hidden, there is a need for methods based on sound epidemiologic science and that use technology appropriate to the local setting to uncover local transmission networks in a way that leads to effective, ethical, and evidence-based prevention. Weir developed and piloted the Priorities for Local AIDS Control Efforts (PLACE) method in South Africa in 1999 to identify where to reach persons most at risk of acquiring and transmitted HIV. Since then, the PLACE method has been implemented in over 28 countries and has been improved through the application of new technologies in HIV and STI testing, improved methods in spatial analysis, and new application of epidemiologic research tools. The method won the USAID Pioneer Prize for Science and Technology in 2013. The largest implementation of PLACE to date was in Uganda in 2013-2014. PLACE was implemented in 30 districts in Uganda and included interviews and HIV testing of over 18,000 persons socializing at high risk venues. A video was produced that describes the method and its use by district level health teams.

Weir has collaborated with UNAIDS and the World Health Organization since 2009, co-chairing a working group to develop operational guidelines for monitoring and evaluation of HIV prevention and treatment programs for people who inject drugs, sex workers, men who have sex with men and transgender people. In the past two years, she has worked closely with the Global Fund to develop guidelines for estimating the size of key populations.

Weir is the UNC PI for the LINKAGES project, a USAID project that focuses on improving HIV prevention and treatment programs for sex workers, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs and transgender people. Weir is the UNC PI for the Measurement and Surveillance Consortium (MeSH) funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. These two project will close in 2019.