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DHEA levels tend to be low in individuals infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and these levels decline even further as the disease progresses.

Some people with HIV take DHEA in amounts designed to restore normal levels. This might help improve their energy levels.

HIV-positive men with lower DHEA levels have comparably lower CD4 cell counts and are 2.3 times more likely to progress to AIDS. HIV-positive men have a dramatically elevated cortisol/DHEA ratio that parallels their nutritional and disease status.

Clinical Studies

  • Several studies have found that DHEA increases levels of IL-2, a chemical messenger that increases the production of CD4 (T-helper) cells. DHEA also improves the ability of CD8 (T-killer) cells to destroy infected cells. DHEA may help normalize the immune system.

  • A recent study shows that DHEA can reduce depression in people with HIV.

  •  In one small clinical study, DHEA supplementation improved mental function in men and women infected with HIV. However, studies in humans have yet to demonstrate whether DHEA supplementation can improve immune function in people with this condition.

  • New York State Psychiatric Institute, NY 10032, USA.
    The goal of this pilot study was to evaluate the effect of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) on depressed mood and fatigue in HIV+ men and women, unselected for baseline DHEA level. Secondary questions concerned treatment effects on libido and body cell mass, on serum testosterone levels, and elicitation of short-term side effects. Treatment consisted of an open-label 8-week trial using DHEA doses from 200 to 500 mg/day. Mood responders were maintained for another 4 weeks, then randomized to a double blind placebo controlled 4-week discontinuation trial. Forty-five patients, including six women, entered the trial. Of 32 week 8 completers, mood was much improved in 72%, and 81% were rated responders with respect to fatigue. Response on either parameter was unrelated to baseline serum DHEA level. Twenty-one patients entered the double blind discontinuation phase. No differences in relapse rate between placebo and DHEA groups were observed for either mood or fatigue. Body cell mass increased significantly by week 8, and this improvement was maintained throughout the double blind phase for patients in both treatment conditions. Libido increased significantly as well. DHEA therapy did not have an effect on CD4 cell count or on serum testosterone levels in men. In conclusion, DHEA may be a promising treatment for HIV+ patients with depressed mood and fatigue, although persistence of response even in placebo-treated patients during the discontinuation phase leaves unresolved questions.









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