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Ana Coelho Gomes, José Maria Aragüés, Sílvia Guerra, Joana Fernandes and Mário Rui Mascarenhas

Summary

Hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (HH) is common and occurs prematurely in HIV-infected men. However, HH with very low testosterone has not been described. Three men with normal pubertal development and HIV1 diagnosis at the ages of 22, 34 and 35 years. All complained of decreased libido, anejaculation and erectile dysfunction thirteen years, six months and one year after HIV diagnosis, respectively. Two had depressive syndrome and two were treated with antiretroviral therapy. Laboratory tests revealed isolated HH in all. Sellar and head CT scans were normal and all had normal CD4 count. They started testosterone replacement therapy, with symptoms improvement. Causes of HH in HIV-infected men include undernutrition, severe illness, drugs, pituitary dysfunction and comorbidities. Despite having none of these conditions (except two that were treated with low-dose psychotropics), our patients had HH with uncommonly low testosterone. This suggests that a different mechanism contributes to severe HH in HIV-infected men.

Learning points:

  • The pathogenesis of hypogonadotropic hypogonadism in HIV-infected men is multifactorial and androgen deficiency is more often a consequence of secondary hypogonadism than primary hypogonadism.

  • Causes of hypogonadotropic hypogonadism in HIV-infected men include undernutrition, severe illness, drugs (psychotropics, opiates, megestrol acetate or steroids), pituitary dysfunction (tumor, hyperprolactinemia), an AIDS-related lesion (very rarely) and comorbid conditions, such as antibody to hepatitis C virus seropositivity and injection drug use.

  • Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), particularly protease inhibitor therapy has been associated with sexual dysfunction in men, but the causal nature of this relation has not been clearly established.

  • Hypogonadotropic hypogonadism with uncommonly low testosterone levels are not usually associated with the conditions referred and this suggests that a different mechanism could contribute to severe hypogonadotropic hypogonadism in HIV-infected men.

  • Screening for hypogonadism in all HIV-infected men might help to understand its etiology.