Karina Villalba received her Ph.D. in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention from Florida International University at Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work in 2015. She then completed two postdoctoral fellowships at Louisiana State University, School of Medicine, at the Alcohol & Drug Abuse Center of Excellence, and at Florida International University, AIDS Prevention Program. She joined UCF, College of Medicine in 2020 as a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Population Health Sciences Department with a joint appointment at the Violence Against Women Faculty Cluster. Dr. Villalba is a biobehavioral scientist with a broad understanding and training in basic and behavioral sciences. Her research focuses on the intersectionality between violence against women and HIV, substance abuse, and mental health. Dr. Villalba has contributed or led research efforts to adapt and evaluate theoretically and evidence-based interventions for underserved and understudied populations particularly burdened by HIV health disparities, including disproportionate problems with substance use, mental health, and exposure to trauma and violence. Her goal is to develop evidence-based bio-behavioral interventions that can adapt to real-world settings to improve women’s health.

Dr. Villalba’s research is in the process of expanding to Latin America, particularly South America. She is leading a study focusing on the effects of COVID-19 in Latin America and Spain. Her research seeks to understand how risk and protective sociocultural factors coupled with pandemic stress influence attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors about COVID-19 mitigation efforts among adults. The goal of the study is to compare populations in different countries, which in turn will allow for the identification of commonalities that can inform the development of culturally relevant outreach strategies to mitigate COVID-19 and future epidemics in these countries.

Dr. Villalba completed a Diversity Supplement by an NIAAA NIH-funded community PrEP grant (3U34AA026219) in 2019. This study used a mixed-methods design to identify knowledge attitudes and beliefs about PrEP among Black and Hispanic women with a history of intimate partner violence who are at risk for HIV. It also sought to understand whether the additive history of childhood sexual abuse and intimate partner violence compounded greater risk for alcohol use and negative PrEP attitudes. In addition, she also completed a pilot study examining the associations between emotion regulation, executive functioning, childhood abuse, and risk-behaviors (sexual risk and alcohol abuse) among women of color (African American and Latina) in South Florida.


** If you are interested and would like to learn more about ongoing research projects, send me an email.


Recent Publications:

Peer Reviewed:

  • Fava NM, Sanchez M, Ravelo G, Villalba K, Wuyke G, Rojas P. (2019) Sexual trauma and wellbeing among Latinas: the moderating role of gender norms. Journal of Traumatic Stress.
  • Villalba K, Cook C, Dévieux JG, Ibanez GE, Oghogho E, Neira C, Cook RL. (2019). Facilitators and barriers to a contingency management alcohol intervention involving a transdermal alcohol sensor. Heliyon.
  • Villalba K, Sanchez M, Ravelo G, Wuyke G, Rojas P (2019). Intimate partner violence and self-silencing: short report from a south Florida semi-rural community. Violence Against Women
  • Attonito J, Villalba K, Rosenberg R, Jean-Gilles M, Dévieux JG. (2019) Effectiveness of an evidence-based intervention in improving treatment adherence, service utilization and viral load among HIV-seropositive adult alcohol users. AIDS and Behavior. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Villalba K, Ramírez-Ortiz D, Dévieux JG, Attonito J, Rojas P. (2018) Gender Role Attitudes Among Latinas: Empowering Women. World Medical & Health Policy 10(4), 12-18
  • Villalba K, Dévieux JG, and Cadet JL (2016) Serotonin-Related Gene Polymorphisms and Asymptomatic Neurocognitive Impairment in HIV-infected Alcohol Abusers. Genet Res Int: 23(1) 1-7.
  • Villalba K, Dévieux JG, and Cadet JL (2016) DRD2 and DRD4 Genes Related to Cognitive Deficits in HIV-infected Adults who Abuse Alcohol. Behav Brain Funct. doi: 10.1186/s12993-015-0072-x
  • Villalba K, Attonito J, Mendy A, Gasana J, Dévieux JG, and Dorak MT (2015) A Meta-Analysis of the Association Between SLC6A4 Promoter Polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) with Risk of Alcohol Dependence. Psychiatr Genet. 25(2):47-58.
  • Malow R, Dévieux JG, Stein JA, Rosenberg R, Lerner BG, Attonito J, Villalba K (2012) neurological function information-motivation-behavioral skills factors and risk behaviors among hiv-positive alcohol abusers. AIDS and Behavior. 16:8, 2297-2308.
  • Villalba K, Attonito J, Jean-Gilles M, Rosenberg R, Sanchez M. Dévieux JG. (2019). The effects of childhood abuse: the role of anxiety and alcohol use among Haitian women living with HIV Archives of Sexual Behavior.


Education & Specialties


  • MBA, Healthcare, Florida International University
  • PhD, Public Health, (Health Promotion & Disease Prevention), Florida International University
  • MPH, Public Health, emphasis in Environmental Health Sciences
  • B.A., Exercise Physiology, Florida International University



  • Intimate partner violence
  • Behavioral and prevention health
  • Marginalized populations
  • Sexual health


Research Interests:


  • HIV/AIDS prevention/treatment
  • Substance abuse
  • Violence against women
  • Childhood abuse and adult risk behaviors

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