Postdoctoral Associate, Health Promotion and Disease Prevention


HIV and Substance Use Disorders

Dr. Karina Villalba has a master’s in environmental health and a doctorate in health promotion and disease prevention. Dr. Villalba’s research has focused primarily on HIV, substance use disorders, neurocognition and genomics. Her interests include the contribution of gene-environment interaction in the etiology of substance use disorders, the adaptation and evaluation of theoretically-based interventions for HIV/AIDS and substance use disorders and the understandment of the effects of traumatic events during childhood and/or adulthood in HIV+ individuals with alcohol use disorders.

Her research integrates basic and behavioral sciences with the aim to translate to population-based interventions. As part of her training, she is involved in the study “effects of experimentally-induced reductions in alcohol consumption on brain cognitive, and clinical outcomes and motivation for changing drinking in older persons with HIV infection.” The goal of the study is to determine the extent to which achieving short-term abstinence or markedly reduce drinking improves cognition and brain function using contingency management and whether these improvements reverse after discontinuing this strategy.

Previously, she was a postdoctoral fellow at Louisiana State University Health Science Center, at the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Center of Excellence.


  • Florida International University, MPH, Ph.D.


Malow R, Devieux J, 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, Mendy A, Gasana J, Beck-Sague C, Devieux GJ, 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.

Villalba K, Beck-Sague C, Devieux GJ, and Cadet JL (2015) DRD2 and DRD4 Genes Related to Cognitive Deficits in HIV-infected Adults who Abuse Alcohol. Behav Brain Funct. 2015. doi: 10.1186/s12993-015-0072-x

Villalba K, Devieux GJ, and Cadet JL (2016) Serotonin-Related Gene Polymorphisms and Asymptomatic Neurocognitive Impairment in HIV-infected Alcohol Abusers. Genetics Research International Volume 2016, Article ID 7169172.