Testosterone insufficiency has been associated with HIV infection in men (Dobs et al 1988). Early reports suggested that testosterone therapy may have an ameliorating effect on both depression and decreased energy in HIV infected men, even if testosterone levels were not reduced (Rabkin et al 1999; Grinspoon et al 2000; Rabkin et al 2000). Both depression and fatigue, however, are common features of HIV-positive men and may be associated with factors other than reduced levels of testosterone. The disease itself may induce depression and fatigue may be a consequence of the disease, per se, or of some of the medications used to control HIV.
Zinc is involved in virtually every aspect of male reproduction, including testosterone metabolism. Several studies support the use of zinc for treating low sperm counts, especially when accompanied by low testosterone levels. In these studies, zinc has shown an ability to raise both sperm counts and testosterone levels. Many men may be suffering from low testosterone simply because of a zinc deficiency. Taking 30–45 mg of zinc per day is recommended; balance with 2–3 mg of copper for best results.
Another effect that can limit treatment is polycythemia, which occurs due to various stimulatory effects of testosterone on erythropoiesis (Zitzmann and Nieschlag 2004). Polycythemia is known to produce increased rates of cerebral ischemia and there have been reports of stroke during testosterone induced polycythaemia (Krauss et al 1991). It is necessary to monitor hematocrit during testosterone treatment, and hematocrit greater than 50% should prompt either a reduction of dose if testosterone levels are high or high-normal, or cessation of treatment if levels are low-normal. On the other hand, late onset hypogonadism frequently results in anemia which will then normalize during physiological testosterone replacement.
However, some of these signs and symptoms can be caused by factors other than low testosterone, including medication side effects, thyroid problems, depression and excessive alcohol use. There are also conditions, such as obstructive sleep apnea, that might affect testosterone levels. Once these conditions are identified and treated, testosterone typically will return to a normal level.