Lisa J. Messersmith, PhD

Associate Professor, Global Health - Boston University School of Public Health


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.

Other Positions

  • Associate Professor, Anthropology - Boston University College of Arts and Sciences


  • 1994 - University of California, Los Angeles, PhD Field of Study: Anthropology
  • 1992 - Johns Hopkins University, MPH Field of Study: Public Health
  • 1991 - University of California, Los Angeles, MA Field of Study: Anthropology


Classes Taught

  • SPHGH750
  • SPHGH795
  • SPHPM828
  • SPHSB818


  • Published on 11/1/2020

    Sabin LL, Halim N, Hamer DH, Simmons EM, Jonnalagadda S, Larson Williams A, Chemusto H, Gifford AL, Bonawitz R, Aroda P, DeSilva M, Gasuza J, Mukasa B, Messersmith LJ. Retention in HIV Care Among HIV-Seropositive Pregnant and Postpartum Women in Uganda: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial. AIDS Behav. 2020 Nov; 24(11):3164-3175. PMID: 32314120.

    Read At: PubMed
  • Published on 7/29/2020

    Murillo A, DeSilva MB, Sabin LL, Halim N, Chemusto H, Aroda P, Gasuza J, Hamer DH, Williams AL, Mukasa B, Messersmith LJ, Bonawitz R. Impact of a Maternal Prevention of Mother-to-child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) Intervention on HIV-exposed Infants in Uganda. Int J MCH AIDS. 2020; 9(3):320-329. PMID: 32765963.

    Read At: PubMed
  • Published on 5/13/2019

    Halim N, Steven Mzilangwe E, Reich N, Badi L, Simmons E, Servidone M, Bingham Holmes N, Kawemama P, Messersmith LJ. Together to end violence against women in Tanzania: Results of a pilot cluster randomized controlled trial to evaluate preliminary effectiveness of interpersonal and community level interventions to address intimate partner violence. Glob Public Health. 2019 12; 14(12):1653-1668. PMID: 31084264.

    Read At: PubMed
  • Published on 3/21/2019

    Simmons E, Halim N, Servidone M, Steven E, Reich N, Badi L, Holmes N, Kawemama P, Messersmith LJ. Prevention and Mitigation of Intimate-Partner Violence: The Role of Community Leaders in Tanzania. Violence Against Women. 2020 03; 26(3-4):359-378. PMID: 30898055.

    Read At: PubMed
  • Published on 3/8/2018

    Halim N, Steven E, Reich N, Badi L, Messersmith L. Variability and validity of intimate partner violence reporting by couples in Tanzania. PLoS One. 2018; 13(3):e0193253. PMID: 29518162.

    Read At: PubMed
  • Published on 9/13/2017

    Messersmith LJ, Halim N, Steven Mzilangwe E, Reich N, Badi L, Holmes NB, Servidone M, Simmons E, Kawemama P. Childhood Trauma, Gender Inequitable Attitudes, Alcohol Use and Multiple Sexual Partners: Correlates of Intimate Partner Violence in Northern Tanzania. J Interpers Violence. 2021 Jan; 36(1-2):820-842. PMID: 29294914.

    Read At: PubMed
  • 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 1/1/2013

    Messersmith L, Beard J, Agyarko-Poku T, Longobardi D, Asafo M, Corneliess C, Daube E, Ashigbie P, Falconer A, and Adu-Sarkodie Y. Understanding the Social, Economic and Behavioral Vulnerability to HIV of Women Working in Bars and Restaurants in Kumasi, Ghana. National AIDS Conference in Accra, Ghana. 2013.

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