Melissa H. Watt, PhD

Research Interests

  • HIV
  • Mental Health
  • Health Disparities
  • Global Health
  • Qualitative Methods

Academic Information

  • Departments: Population Health Sciences - Research Associate Professor
  • Divisions: Health System Innovation and Research

Academic Bio

Dr. Melissa Watt is an Associate Professor of Population Health Sciences with a co-appointment in the University of Utah Honors, where she directs the Health in Context Pathway. Dr. Watt is a behavioral scientist who has expertise in qualitative research methods and development of behavioral interventions. Dr. Watt has an NIH-funded research program in Moshi, Tanzania addressing HIV stigma as a barrier to prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV (visit her research website at http://www.maishateam.com).

Dr. Watt has a PhD in Health Behavior from the University of North Carolina and an MA in Gender and International Development from the University of Sussex (UK). Prior to joining the University of Utah, she was at the Duke University Global Health Institute, where she directed a Master of Science in Global Health program and held a leadership role in the Duke Center for AIDS Research.

Selected Publications

Journal Article

  1. Watt MH, Knippler ET, Minja L, Kisigo G, Knettel BA, Ngocho JS, Renju J, Osaki H, Mwamba R, Rogathi JJ, Mmbaga BT (2019). A counseling intervention to address HIV stigma at entry into antenatal care in Tanzania (Maisha): study protocol for a pilot randomized controlled trial. Trials, 20(1), 807.
  2. Cichowitz C, Mazuguni F, Minja L, Njau P, Antelman G, Ngocho J, Knettel BA, Watt MH, Mmbaga BT (2020). Vulnerable at Each Step in the PMTCT Care Cascade: High Loss to Follow Up During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period in Tanzania. AIDS Behav, 23(7), 1824-1832.
  3. Watt MH, Cichowitz C, Kisigo G, Minja L, Knettel BA, Knippler ET, Ngocho J, Manavalan P, Mmbaga BT (2018). Predictors of postpartum HIV care engagement for women enrolled in prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programs in Tanzania. AIDS Care, 31(6), 687-698.
  4. Watt MH, Knippler ET, Knettel BA, Sikkema KJ, Ciya N, Myer L, Joska JA (2019). HIV Disclosure Among Pregnant Women Initiating ART in Cape Town, South Africa: Qualitative Perspectives During the Pregnancy and Postpartum Periods. AIDS Behav, 22(12), 3945-3956.
  5. Knettel BA, Minja L, Chumba LN, Oshosen M, Cichowitz C, Mmbaga BT, Watt MH (2018). Serostatus disclosure among a cohort of HIV-infected pregnant women enrolled in HIV care in Moshi, Tanzania: A mixed-methods study. SSM Popul Health, 7, 007-7.
  6. Fletcher OV, May PA, Seedat S, Sikkema KJ, Watt MH (2018). Attitudes toward alcohol use during pregnancy among women recruited from alcohol-serving venues in Cape Town, South Africa: A mixed-methods study. Soc Sci Med, 215, 98-106.
  7. Cherenack EM, Sikkema KJ, Watt MH, Hansen NB, Wilson PA (2019). Avoidant Coping Mediates the Relationship Between Self-Efficacy for HIV Disclosure and Depression Symptoms Among Men Who Have Sex with Men Newly Diagnosed with HIV. AIDS Behav, 22(10), 3130-3140.
  8. Cichowitz C, Watt MH, Mmbaga BT (2018). Childbirth experiences of women living with HIV: a neglected event in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission care continuum. AIDS, 32(11), 1537-1539.
  9. Sikkema KJ, Choi KW, Robertson C, Knettel BA, Ciya N, Knippler ET, Watt MH, Joska JA (2018). Development of a coping intervention to improve traumatic stress and HIV care engagement among South African women with sexual trauma histories. Eval Program Plann, 68, 148-156.
  10. Knettel BA, Cichowitz C, Ngocho JS, Knippler ET, Chumba LN, Mmbaga BT, Watt MH (2017). Retention in HIV Care During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period in the Option B+ Era: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Studies in Africa. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr, 77(5), 427-438.
  11. Cichowitz C, Watt MH, Mchome B, Masenga GG (2017). Delays contributing to the development and repair of obstetric fistula in northern Tanzania. Int Urogynecol J, 29(3), 397-405.
  12. Sikkema KJ, Mulawa MI, Robertson C, Watt MH, Ciya N, Stein DJ, Cherenack EM, Choi KW, Kombora M, Joska JA (2017). Improving AIDS Care After Trauma (ImpACT): Pilot Outcomes of a Coping intervention Among HIV-Infected Women with Sexual Trauma in South Africa. AIDS Behav, 22(3), 1039-1052.
  13. Watt MH, Dennis AC, Choi KW, Ciya N, Joska JA, Robertson C, Sikkema KJ (2016). Impact of Sexual Trauma on HIV Care Engagement: Perspectives of Female Patients with Trauma Histories in Cape Town, South Africa. AIDS Behav, 21(11), 3209-3218.
  14. Velloza J, Watt MH, Abler L, Skinner D, Kalichman SC, Dennis AC, Sikkema KJ (2017). HIV-Risk Behaviors and Social Support Among Men and Women Attending Alcohol-Serving Venues in South Africa: Implications for HIV Prevention. AIDS Behav, 21(Suppl 2), 144-154.
  15. Watt MH, Mosha MV, Platt AC, Sikkema KJ, Wilson SM, Turner EL, Masenga GG (2017). A nurse-delivered mental health intervention for obstetric fistula patients in Tanzania: results of a pilot randomized controlled trial. Pilot Feasibility Stud, 3, 35.
  16. Watt MH, Knettel BA, Choi KW, Knippler ET, May PA, Seedat S (2017). Risk for Alcohol-Exposed Pregnancies Among Women at Drinking Venues in Cape Town, South Africa. J Stud Alcohol Drugs, 78(5), 795-800.
  17. Yemeke TT, Sikkema KJ, Watt MH, Ciya N, Robertson C, Joska JA (2017). Screening for Traumatic Experiences and Mental Health Distress Among Women in HIV Care in Cape Town, South Africa. (Epub ahead of print) J Interpers Violence.
  18. Lion RR, Watt MH, Wechsberg WM, Meade CS (2017). Gender and Sex Trading Among Active Methamphetamine Users in Cape Town, South Africa. Subst Use Misuse, 52(6), 773-784.
  19. Choi KW, Sikkema KJ, Vythilingum B, Geerts L, Faure SC, Watt MH, Roos A, Stein DJ (2017). Maternal childhood trauma, postpartum depression, and infant outcomes: Avoidant affective processing as a potential mechanism. J Affect Disord, 211, 107-115.
  20. Lewandowski LB, Watt MH, Schanberg LE, Thielman NM, Scott C (2017). Missed opportunities for timely diagnosis of pediatric lupus in South Africa: a qualitative study. Pediatr Rheumatol Online J, 15(1), 14.
  21. Watt MH, Guidera KE, Hobkirk AL, Skinner D, Meade CS (2016). Intimate partner violence among men and women who use methamphetamine: A mixed-methods study in South Africa. Drug Alcohol Rev, 36(1), 97-106.
  22. Meade CS, Lion RR, Cordero DM, Watt MH, Joska JA, Gouse H, Burnhams W (2016). HIV Risk Behavior Among Methamphetamine Users Entering Substance Abuse Treatment in Cape Town, South Africa. AIDS Behav, 20(10), 2387-2397.
  23. Dennis AC, Wilson SM, Mosha MV, Masenga GG, Sikkema KJ, Terroso KE, Watt MH (2016). Experiences of social support among women presenting for obstetric fistula repair surgery in Tanzania. Int J Womens Health, 8, 429-39.
  24. Gouse H, Joska JA, Lion RR, Watt MH, Burnhams W, Carrico AW, Meade CS (2015). HIV testing and sero-prevalence among methamphetamine users seeking substance abuse treatment in Cape Town. Drug Alcohol Rev, 35(5), 580-3.
  25. Zissette S, Watt MH, Prose NS, Mntambo N, Moshabela M (2016). "If you don't take a stand for your life, who will help you?": Men's engagement in HIV care in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 17(3), 265-273.
  26. Watt MH, Kimani SM, Skinner D, Meade CS (2015). "Nothing Is Free": A Qualitative Study of Sex Trading Among Methamphetamine Users in Cape Town, South Africa. Arch Sex Behav, 45(4), 923-33.
  27. Pitpitan EV, Kalichman SC, Eaton LA, Sikkema KJ, Watt MH, Skinner D, Pieterse D (2016). Men's Behavior Predicts Women's Risks for HIV/AIDS: Multilevel Analysis of Alcohol-Serving Venues in South Africa. Prevention Science, 17(4), 472-82.
  28. Wilson SM, Sikkema KJ, Watt MH, Masenga GG, Mosha MV (2016). Psychological Symptoms and Social Functioning Following Repair of Obstetric Fistula in a Low-Income Setting. Matern Child Health J, 20(5), 941-5.
  29. Hobkirk AL, Watt MH, Myers B, Skinner D, Meade CS (2015). A qualitative study of methamphetamine initiation in Cape Town, South Africa. Int J Drug Policy, 30, 99-106.
  30. Watt MH, Eaton LA, Dennis AC, Choi KW, Kalichman SC, Skinner D, Sikkema KJ (2015). Alcohol Use During Pregnancy in a South African Community: Reconciling Knowledge, Norms, and Personal Experience. Matern Child Health J, 20(1), 48-55.
  31. Choi KW, Sikkema KJ, Velloza J, Marais A, Jose C, Stein DJ, Watt MH, Joska JA (2015). Maladaptive coping mediates the influence of childhood trauma on depression and PTSD among pregnant women in South Africa. Arch Womens Ment Health, 18(5), 731-8.
  32. Velloza J, Watt MH, Choi KW, Abler L, Kalichman SC, Skinner D, Pieterse D, Sikkema KJ (2015). HIV/AIDS-related stigma in South African alcohol-serving venues and its potential impact on HIV disclosure, testing and treatment-seeking behaviours. Global Public Health, 10(9), 1092-106.
  33. Wilson SM, Sikkema KJ, Watt MH, Masenga GG (2015). Psychological Symptoms Among Obstetric Fistula Patients Compared to Gynecology Outpatients in Tanzania. Int J Behav Med, 22(5), 605-13.
  34. Abler L, Sikkema KJ, Watt MH, Hansen NB, Wilson PA, Kochman A (2015). Depression and HIV Serostatus Disclosure to Sexual Partners Among Newly HIV-Diagnosed Men Who Have Sex with Men. AIDS Patient Care STDS, 29(10), 550-8.
  35. Watt MH, Myers B, Towe SL, Meade CS (2015). The mental health experiences and needs of methamphetamine users in Cape Town: A mixed methods study. S. Afr. Med. J, 105(8), 685-8.
  36. Meade CS, Towe SL, Watt MH, Lion RR, Myers B, Skinner D, Kimani S, Pieterse D (2015). Addiction and treatment experiences among active methamphetamine users recruited from a township community in Cape Town, South Africa: A mixed-methods study. Drug Alcohol Depend, 152, 79-86.
  37. Skalski LM, Watt MH, MacFarlane JC, Proeschold-Bell RJ, Stout JE, Sikkema KJ (2015). Mental Health and Substance Use Among Patients in a North Carolina HIV Clinic. N C Med J, 76(3), 148-55.
  38. Watt MH, Wilson SM, Sikkema KJ, Velloza J, Mosha MV, Masenga GG, Bangser M, Browning A, Nyindo PM (2015). Development of an intervention to improve mental health for obstetric fistula patients in Tanzania. Eval Program Plann, 50, 1-9.
  39. Watt MH, Sikkema KJ, Abler L, Velloza J, Eaton LA, Kalichman SC, Skinner D, Pieterse D (2014). Experiences of forced sex among female patrons of alcohol-serving venues in a South African township. J Interpers Violence, 30(9), 1533-52.
  40. Abler L, Sikkema KJ, Watt MH, Pitpitan EV, Kalichman SC, Skinner D, Pieterse D (2014). Traumatic stress and the mediating role of alcohol use on HIV-related sexual risk behavior: results from a longitudinal cohort of South African women who attend alcohol-serving venues. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr, 68(3), 322-8.
  41. Hobkirk AL, Watt MH, Green KT, Beckham JC, Skinner D, Meade CS (2014). Mediators of interpersonal violence and drug addiction severity among methamphetamine users in Cape Town, South Africa. Addict Behav, 42, 167-71.
  42. Meade CS, Towe SL, Watt MH, Hobkirk AL, Skinner D, Myers B, Kimani SM, Pieterse D (2014). HIV testing behaviors and attitudes among community recruited methamphetamine users in a South African township. AIDS Behav, 19(1), 186-91.
  43. Sikkema KJ, Dennis AC, Watt MH, Choi KW, Yemeke TT, Joska JA (2015). Improving mental health among people living with HIV: a review of intervention trials in low- and middle-income countries. Glob Ment Health (Camb), 2.
  44. Choi KW, Watt MH, Skinner D, Kalichman SC, Sikkema KJ (2016). "Wine you get every day, but a child you can't replace": The perceived impact of parental drinking on child outcomes in a South African township. Journal of Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 27(3), 173-87.
  45. Kimani SM, Watt MH, Merli MG, Skinner D, Myers B, Pieterse D, MacFarlane JC, Meade CS (2014). Respondent driven sampling is an effective method for engaging methamphetamine users in HIV prevention research in South Africa. Drug Alcohol Depend, 143, 134-40.
  46. Sikkema KJ, Abler L, Hansen NB, Wilson PA, Drabkin AS, Kochman A, MacFarlane JC, DeLorenzo A, Mayer G, Watt MH, Nazareth W (2014). Positive choices: outcomes of a brief risk reduction intervention for newly HIV-diagnosed men who have sex with men. AIDS Behav, 18(9), 1808-19.
  47. Watt MH, Eaton LA, Choi KW, Velloza J, Kalichman SC, Skinner D, Sikkema KJ (2014). "It's better for me to drink, at least the stress is going away": perspectives on alcohol use during pregnancy among South African women attending drinking establishments. Soc Sci Med, 116, 119-25.
  48. Abler LA, Sikkema KJ, Watt MH, Eaton LA, Choi KW, Kalichman SC, Skinner D, Pieterse D (2014). Longitudinal cohort study of depression, post-traumatic stress, and alcohol use in South African women who attend alcohol serving venues. BMC Psychiatry, 14, 224.
  49. Eaton LA, Kalichman SC, Pitpitan EV, Cain DN, Watt MH, Sikkema KJ, Skinner D, Pieterse D (2013). The relationship between attending alcohol serving venues nearby versus distant to one's residence and sexual risk taking in a South African township. J Behav Med, 37(3), 381-90.
  50. Pitpitan EV, Kalichman SC, Eaton LA, Watt MH, Sikkema KJ, Skinner D, Pieterse D, Cain D (2013). Men (and women) as "sellers" of sex in alcohol-serving venues in Cape Town, South Africa. Prevention Science, 15(3), 296-308.
  51. Eaton LA, Pitpitan EV, Kalichman SC, Sikkema KJ, Skinner D, Watt MH, Pieterse D, Cain DN (2013). Food insecurity and alcohol use among pregnant women at alcohol-serving establishments in South Africa. Prevention Science, 15(3), 309-17.
  52. Watt MH, Perera B, Ostbye T, Ranabahu S, Rajapakse H, Maselko J (2014). Caregiving expectations and challenges among elders and their adult children in Southern Sri Lanka. Ageing Soc, 34(5), 838-858.
  53. Choi KW, Abler LA, Watt MH, Eaton LA, Kalichman SC, Skinner D, Pieterse D, Sikkema KJ (2014). Drinking before and after pregnancy recognition among South African women: the moderating role of traumatic experiences. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 14, 97.
  54. Watt MH, Meade CS, Kimani S, MacFarlane JC, Choi KW, Skinner D, Pieterse D, Kalichman SC, Sikkema KJ (2013). The impact of methamphetamine ("tik") on a peri-urban community in Cape Town, South Africa. Int J Drug Policy, 25(2), 219-25.
  55. Eaton LA, Pitpitan EV, Kalichman SC, Sikkema KJ, Skinner D, Watt MH, Pieterse D, Cain DN (2014). Beliefs about fetal alcohol spectrum disorder among men and women at alcohol serving establishments in South Africa. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse, 40(2), 87-94.
  56. Choi KW, Watt MH, MacFarlane JC, Sikkema KJ, Skinner D, Pieterse D, Kalichman SC (2013). Drinking in the Context of Life Stressors: A Multidimensional Coping Strategy Among South African Women. Subst Use Misuse, 49(1-2), 66-76.
  57. Watt MH, Wilson SM, Joseph M, Masenga G, MacFarlane JC, Oneko O, Sikkema KJ (2014). Religious coping among women with obstetric fistula in Tanzania. Global Public Health, 9(5), 516-27.
  58. Eaton LA, Pitpitan EV, Kalichman SC, Sikkema KJ, Skinner D, Watt MH, Pieterse D (2013). Men who report recent male and female sex partners in Cape Town, South Africa: an understudied and underserved population. Arch Sex Behav, 42(7), 1299-308.
  59. Pitpitan EV, Kalichman SC, Eaton LA, Cain D, Sikkema KJ, Skinner D, Watt MH, Pieterse D (2012). Gender-based violence, alcohol use, and sexual risk among female patrons of drinking venues in Cape Town, South Africa. J Behav Med, 36(3), 295-304.
  60. Drabkin AS, Sikkema KJ, Wilson PA, Meade CS, Hansen NB, DeLorenzo A, Kochman A, MacFarlane JC, Watt MH, Aunon FM, Ranby KW, Mayer G (2013). Risk patterns preceding diagnosis among newly HIV-diagnosed men who have sex with men in New York City. AIDS Patient Care STDS, 27(6), 333-41.
  61. Pitpitan EV, Kalichman SC, Eaton LA, Cain D, Sikkema KJ, Watt MH, Skinner D, Pieterse D (2012). Co-occurring psychosocial problems and HIV risk among women attending drinking venues in a South African township: a syndemic approach. Ann Behav Med, 45(2), 153-62.
  62. Bess KD, Adams J, Watt MH, ODonnell JK, Gaynes BN, Thielman NM, Heine A, Zinski A, Raper JL, Pence BW (2013). Providers' attitudes towards treating depression and self-reported depression treatment practices in HIV outpatient care. AIDS Patient Care STDS, 27(3), 171-80.
  63. Meade CS, Watt MH, Sikkema KJ, Deng LX, Ranby KW, Skinner D, Pieterse D, Kalichmann SC (2012). Methamphetamine use is associated with childhood sexual abuse and HIV sexual risk behaviors among patrons of alcohol-serving venues in Cape Town, South Africa. Drug Alcohol Depend, 126(1-2), 232-9.
  64. Watt MH, Aunon FM, Skinner D, Sikkema KJ, Macfarlane JC, Pieterse D, Kalichman SC (2012). Alcohol-serving venues in South Africa as sites of risk and potential protection for violence against women. Subst Use Misuse, 47(12), 1271-80.
  65. Pitpitan EV, Kalichman SC, Eaton LA, Sikkema KJ, Watt MH, Skinner D (2012). Gender-based violence and HIV sexual risk behavior: alcohol use and mental health problems as mediators among women in drinking venues, Cape Town. Soc Sci Med, 75(8), 1417-25.
  66. Watt MH, Ranby KW, Meade CS, Sikkema KJ, MacFarlane JC, Skinner D, Pieterse D, Kalichman SC (2012). Posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms mediate the relationship between traumatic experiences and drinking behavior among women attending alcohol-serving venues in a South African township. J Stud Alcohol Drugs, 73(4), 549-58.
  67. Pitpitan EV, Kalichman SC, Eaton LA, Cain D, Sikkema KJ, Skinner D, Watt MH, Pieterse D (2012). AIDS-related stigma, HIV testing, and transmission risk among patrons of informal drinking places in Cape Town, South Africa. Ann Behav Med, 43(3), 362-71.
  68. Watt MH, Aunon FM, Skinner D, Sikkema KJ, Kalichman SC, Pieterse D (2012). "Because he has bought for her, he wants to sleep with her": alcohol as a currency for sexual exchange in South African drinking venues. Soc Sci Med, 74(7), 1005-12.
  69. Puffer ES, Watt MH, Sikkema KJ, Ogwang-Odhiambo RA, Broverman SA (2011). The protective role of religious coping in adolescents' responses to poverty and sexual decision-making in rural Kenya. J Res Adolesc, 22(1), 1-7.
  70. Eaton LA, Kalichman SC, Sikkema KJ, Skinner D, Watt MH, Pieterse D, Pitpitan EV (2011). Pregnancy, alcohol intake, and intimate partner violence among men and women attending drinking establishments in a Cape Town, South Africa township. J Community Health, 37(1), 208-16.
  71. Njau B, Watt MH, Ostermann J, Manongi R, Sikkema KJ (2011). Perceived acceptability of home-based couples voluntary HIV counseling and testing in Northern Tanzania. AIDS Care, 24(4), 413-9.
  72. Sikkema KJ, Hansen NB, Kochman A, Santos J, Watt MH, Wilson PA, Delorenzo A, Laudato J, Mayer G (2012). THE DEVELOPMENT AND FEASIBILITY OF A BRIEF RISK REDUCTION INTERVENTION FOR NEWLY HIV-DIAGNOSED MEN WHO HAVE SEX WITH MEN. J Community Psychol, 39(6), 717-732.
  73. Sikkema KJ, Watt MH, Meade CS, Ranby KW, Kalichman SC, Skinner D, Pieterse D (2011). Mental health and HIV sexual risk behavior among patrons of alcohol serving venues in Cape Town, South Africa. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr, 57(3), 230-7.
  74. Watt MH, Aronin EH, Maman S, Thielman N, Laiser J, John M (2010). Acceptability of a group intervention for initiates of antiretroviral therapy in Tanzania. Global Public Health, 6(4), 433-46.
  75. Sikkema KJ, Neufeld SA, Hansen NB, Mohlahlane R, Van Rensburg MJ, Watt MH, Fox AM, Crewe M (2009). Integrating HIV prevention into services for abused women in South Africa. AIDS Behav, 14(2), 431-9.
  76. Sikkema KJ, Watt MH, Drabkin AS, Meade CS, Hansen NB, Pence BW (2009). Mental health treatment to reduce HIV transmission risk behavior: a positive prevention model. AIDS Behav, 14(2), 252-62.
  77. Watt MH, Maman S, Golin CE, Earp JA, Eng E, Bangdiwala SI, Jacobson M (2010). Factors associated with self-reported adherence to antiretroviral therapy in a Tanzanian setting. AIDS Care, 22(3), 381-9.
  78. Watt MH, Maman S, Earp JA, Eng E, Setel PW, Golin CE, Jacobson M (2009). "It's all the time in my mind": facilitators of adherence to antiretroviral therapy in a Tanzanian setting. Soc Sci Med, 68(10), 1793-800.
  79. Watt MH, Maman S, Jacobson M, Laiser J, John M (2009). Missed opportunities for religious organizations to support people living with HIV/AIDS: findings from Tanzania. AIDS Patient Care STDS, 23(5), 389-94.
  80. Watt MH, Bobrow EA, Moracco KE (2008). Providing support to IPV victims in the emergency department: vignette-based interviews with IPV survivors and emergency department nurses. Violence Against Women, 14(6), 715-26.