Lisa J. Messersmith, PhD

Associate Professor, Global Health
Lisa Messersmith
Crosstown Center – 430
View full profile at BUMC


Lisa J. Messersmith has over 25 years of research, program and policy experience on gender, sexuality, HIV, and sexual and reproductive health and rights in Sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia. Dr. Messersmith is the principal investigator (PI) on several studies, most recently on a National Institute of Mental Health-funded study to test the effectiveness of wireless technology and data-informed counseling to improve retention in HIV care and adherence to antiretroviral therapy in HIV positive pregnant and postpartum women in Uganda. Other current research includes: a randomized control trial to evaluate interventions to address intimate partner violence in Tanzania; two studies in Ghana that explore the behavioral, socio-economic and structural vulnerability to HIV of people who inject drugs and women who work in bars; a study on the HIV and reproductive health and social service needs of women living with HIV and the first national study to document the types and magnitude of discrimination experienced by people living with HIV in Vietnam. She was also the principal investigator and Director of the Vietnam AIDS Policy and Planning Project, which trained nearly 850 senior policy makers at national and provincial level to design, implement and evaluate rights-based and multi-sectoral responses to HIV. Dr. Messersmith worked in residence for over 13 years in Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Vietnam and has worked in a number of other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Before joining BU SPH in 2007 she was as an Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy and Research Fellow at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. From 1998 to 2004 Dr. Messersmith served as the Sexuality and Reproductive Health Program Officer for the Ford Foundation's Office for Vietnam and Thailand. Prior to her departure in 2004, the Vietnam Ministry of Health awarded her the Medal for the People's Health. In 2003, Dr. Messersmith was a visiting fellow at the Francois Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at the Harvard School of Public Health. She served as the Country Programme Advisor for UNAIDS in Bangladesh from 1996 to 1998. From 1994 to 1995 she was a Research Associate in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health and concurrently served as the Women and AIDS advisor for USAID in Washington, DC. Dr. Messersmith's career in international health and development began in Burkina Faso in 1985 where she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer. She has a PhD and MA in Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles, a Masters in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University, and a Bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Hamilton College.


  • University of California, Los Angeles, PhD
  • Johns Hopkins University, MPH
  • University of California, Los Angeles, MA

Classes Taught

  • SPHGH750
  • SPHGH941
  • SPHGH942
  • SPHSB818
  • SPHSB818


  • Published on 3/1/2015

    Messersmith LJ, Adjei R, Beard J, Agyarko-Poku T, Wondergem P, Falconer A, Sabin L, Adu-Sarkodie Y. Drug use and sexual behavior: the multiple HIV vulnerabilities of men and women who inject drugs in Kumasi, Ghana. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2015 Mar 1; 68 Suppl 2:S124-30. PMID: 25723976.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 3/1/2015

    Trout CH, Dembélé O, Diakité D, Bougoudogo F, Doumbia B, Mathieu J, Haidara A, Sangaré A, Traoré S, Burtner J, Cabral H, Messersmith LJ. West African female sex workers in Mali: reduction in HIV prevalence and differences in risk profiles of sex workers of differing nationalities of origin. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2015 Mar 1; 68 Suppl 2:S221-31. PMID: 25723988.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 11/7/2013

    Herlihy JM, Shaikh A, Mazimba A, Gagne N, Grogan C, Mpamba C, Sooli B, Simamvwa G, Mabeta C, Shankoti P, Messersmith L, Semrau K, Hamer DH. Local perceptions, cultural beliefs and practices that shape umbilical cord care: a qualitative study in Southern Province, Zambia. PLoS One. 2013; 8(11):e79191. PMID: 24244447.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 12/1/2012

    Messersmith LJ, Semrau K, Anh TL, Trang NN, Hoa DM, Eifler K, Sabin L. Women living with HIV in Vietnam: desire for children, use of sexual and reproductive health services, and advice from providers. Reprod Health Matters. 2012 Dec; 20(39 Suppl):27-38. PMID: 23177678.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 9/17/2012

    Premkumar A, Salem K, Akhtar S, Deeb ME, Messersmith LJ. Sectarianism and the problem of overpopulation: political representations of reproduction in two low-income neighbourhoods of Beirut, Lebanon. Cult Health Sex. 2012; 14(10):1139-52. PMID: 22978599.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 9/13/2012

    Messersmith LJ, Semrau K, Hammett TM, Phong NT, Tung ND, Nguyen H, Glandon D, Huong NM, Anh HT. 'Many people know the law, but also many people violate it': discrimination experienced by people living with HIV/AIDS in Vietnam--results of a national study. Glob Public Health. 2013; 8 Suppl 1:S30-45. PMID: 22974225.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 1/1/2010

    Messersmith, L., Semrau, K., Tran, L.A., Nguyen, N.T., Dao, Eifler, K., and Sabin, L. Contested sexual and reproductive rights of women living with HIV in Vietnam: Experience with health care providers and family members in sexual health decision-making. 2010.

  • Published on 1/1/2010

    Messersmith, L. Reflections on my life and work in Vietnam. Vietnam’s 20-Year Response to HIV/AIDS through the Eyes of International Friends. Editor: Nguyen Quoc Trieu. Hanoi, Vietnam. 2010; 207-212.

  • Published on 1/1/2010

    Messersmith, L., Tran, H.B., Truong, Q.T., Montagu, D., La, H., Smith, A., Eifler, K., Tuchman, J. and Le, V.A. . Strengthening Multisectoral Leadership and Engagement on HIV/AIDS in Vietnam: Evidence from an Evaluation of AIDS Policy Training in Six Provinces. Abstract of poster presentation. International AIDS Conference, Vienna Austria. 2010.

  • Published on 1/1/2010

    Messersmith, L., Sabin, L., Tran, L.A., Nguyen N.T., Dao, M.H., Eifler, K., and Semrau, K. . Addressing gender-based violence and the reproductive health needs of women living with HIV/AIDS in Vietnam: an evaluation of interventions to improve health and social services. 2010.

View 12 more publications:View full profile at BUMC

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