Testosterone replacement improves muscle strength, function in HIV-infected women

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have found that restoring normal levels of testosterone can improve muscle strength and function in HIV-infected women with low levels of the male hormone. The report in the April 26 Archives of Internal Medicine is the first long-term, randomized, placebo-controlled study of testosterone treatment in women with HIV.

"There has been very little research in the use of androgens [male hormones] to treat HIV-infected women," says Steven Grinspoon, MD, of the MGH Neuroendocrine Unit and Program in Nutritional Metabolism, the report's senior author. "We found that giving natural testosterone at levels that are normal for women produces significant improvement for patients with few other treatment options."

Earlier studies from the same group had shown that testosterone injections can improve the quality of life in men with the extreme muscle loss called AIDS-wasting syndrome. However, there is little information about gender-specific effects and treatments for HIV infection in women, who now represent almost one-third of diagnosed AIDS patients in the U.S. A 1998 study by the MGH researchers found that short-term use of skin patches that deliver normal levels of testosterone had no adverse effects on a group of women with HIV, and the investigators followed that finding with the current study.

A group of 57 HIV-infected women with lower-than-normal body weight and testosterone levels was enrolled in the trial. Half of them received skin patches designed to deliver testosterone at levels normal for women and the others received identical-appearing placebo patches. Upon entering the double-blinded study, all participants had extensive measurements taken of body weight and composition; of upper- and lower-body muscle strength, and of muscle function based on the distance walked in 6 minutes. Overall, study participants were found to have significant reductions in both muscle strength a

Contact: Sue McGreevey
Massachusetts General Hospital

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