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My Kind of Life: I Love My Androgel

November/December 2003

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

Carlos A. Perez

What I really love about my Androgel I can't write about in a family magazine, but my editor demanded to know. Alright, when I have leftover Androgel at the end of the month, I rub it on myself and my partner and we go into a frenzy. We have a great time in the bedroom.

One of HIV's most popular affect on our system is hypogonadism, which is the medical term for a low testosterone level. The statistics say maybe as many as 30-50% of HIV-positive men have low testosterone counts.

Symptoms of low testosterone may include fatigue, depression, inability to concentrate and (gasp!) erectile dysfunction or decreased sex drive. If left unchecked for a long period of time there is the possibility of losing bone mass leading to osteoporosis, loss of hair and loss of muscle tissue.

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Luckily there is hope, and it's cheap and simple with hardly any bad side effects. Testosterone injections are an option and work just fine for many. However, some people, like moi, cannot handle the sudden surge of testosterone and there are others who just hate an extra needle stick in their bun.

Most people who go on testosterone replacement therapy notice an improvement in their energy level overnight. Some notice an improvement in their bedroom that same night. Before long your energy level may be back to a place you may not remember because it was sometime way before the HIV infection occurred. There can be side effects, as with any other drug, which may manifest as headaches, hypertension, acne or prostrate disorders. There are also concerns for people with heart, kidney and liver disease, and it is not recommended for pregnant women. Aside from a small percentage of those who fit this criteria, testosterone is very well tolerated by most people, especially HIV positive men who need this hormone.

People hate side effects and most people cringe when they hear steroid or hormone because we cling to the negative and sensational stories we've heard. There was bad news when athletes like wrestling super hunk Kyle Hazard died from steroid abuse years back and then there were the many scandalous stories of Olympic champions caught cheating while "on the juice." The Olympics brings up the bar on the hysteria factor because it's an international event.

These stories are blown out of proportion. These people either were caught because they used the substance to cheat in an athletic performance or worse yet they overdosed. Those who overdose are sometimes taking thousand of milligrams per injection, which may be more than you would take during a controlled cycle monitored by your doctor.

Testosterone replacement may help you feel better, therefore making it easier for you to get to the gym or start jogging. It's not just about the ego. Depression has a sly way of slipping into your life. A few days turn into a few weeks then winter comes and you look at yourself one day and shriek in horror because you've been locked up all winter waiting for your disability payments and now you can't fit into last years' jeans. Testosterone replacement therapy may be the kick you need in your jeans.

Some people receiving testosterone injections feel aggression or anxiety or experience mood swings. This is from the spike of testosterone hitting your blood stream. Imagine your testosterone level being at a low and suddenly you're fully charged. It can make you feel like an angry AIDS activist acting out in San Francisco's City Hall! I experienced some "roid rage" while taking the injections and I didn't care for the way it made me feel. I was feeling great for the first time in a long time, my energy and libido was back and the other benefits started to show as well, which is the burning of fat and the enhancement of lean muscle tissue. However, I found that I became angry and easily frustrated. On a few occasions I was ready to punch out that idiot driver in front of me ... how dare he drive like an imbecile! I discussed this with my doctor and we figured the surge of testosterone was causing an urge.

Then my doctor suggested a cream that was made with testosterone but you had to get it by mail order from a women's clinic in Wisconsin. It had a lower concentration of testosterone so I would apply it daily instead of the weekly intra-muscular shot. They literally crushed it up in a pestle and mortar to your doctors' order. The original intent of the cream was to control symptoms of menopause. Since there was no other choice on the market I tried it. I had to lather it on my scrotum and then wait, sort of hanging there, and let it absorb through the skin. It was icky but it worked like a charm. Within the first week I was able to pop out of my house and I started feeling like my old, or should I say younger, self again.

In June of 2000 Unimed Pharmaceuticals brought Androgel to market. I think I had my doctor write the script in June 2000! It is one of the best innovations in medicine and my chosen option instead of that shot that can sometimes leave you limping for hours. The gel is so easy to apply, you just rub it on and it instantly dries. You may rub it on your shoulders, thighs, or abdomen. Make sure to thoroughly wash your hands after applying the gel because you do not want to forget and then rub your eyes (ouch!), and if you have any finger food it will taste very wrong.

Androgel is intended for people with below normal levels of testosterone. By applying one packet per day you should expect to see a positive result in your blood work by the next time you see your doctor. It is not meant to be an anabolic supplement. Do not expect to apply a few packets and start bursting out of your shirts. To deal with wasting syndrome you would need to take higher dosages of testosterone and probably combine it with other anabolic steroids, in controlled cycles as prescribed by your physician. With time, however, the daily applications will have a very positive effect on your figure, so if you can faithfully apply the gel and go to the gym regularly you will burn fat and gain lean muscle tissue. After all, testosterone is what makes "the mens" a man.

Androgel is a great product. It comes in handy little packets that deliver 50, 75 or 100 milligrams of testosterone through your skin and into your wonderful bloodstream. You get all the benefits from testosterone replacement without the added trips to the doctor's office for the shot. You also get smoother delivery of the drug because you are applying a smaller amount of it daily instead of getting a weekly shot that will cause a sudden spike in your circulatory system. It is covered by insurance as long as it's prescribed and it's a breeze to use. It should be applied when you do not expect to shower since you should allow up to four hours for full absorption. You should not apply anything before the gel like moisturizing cream as this will create a barrier and not let the testosterone be fully absorbed.

Keep in mind that our body's natural release of testosterone peaks around 6 to 8 in the morning so it would be advantageous to get your shower done by this time so you can apply your gel and still mimic your own body's cycle of testosterone. Even individuals with hypogonadism release some testosterone during early morning, however, not enough to sustain day-to-day life.

There are two other types of testosterone replacement therapies. Testim made by Auxilium Pharmaceuticals was approved in October 2002. Testim works great, it is much the same as Androgel. It is absorbed even faster than Androgel, thus, requiring only a two-hour period for maximum absorption before showering. Once applied Testim gives you an almost instant rush of energy. The drawback is it comes with a very '70s musk oil fragrance that was too strong for me. The reason for the scent is not from adding fragrance but from pentadecalactone. This oil is used as an emollient that helps with better absorption and it moisturizes too! And this oil has a sweet, powdery, musky, woody odor, which is why I was getting all the weird looks at the gym.

This is a great product and if you don't mind the smell ask your physician about it. Auxilium has an information packet, which you may request directly from them or your doctor that can even save you some cash on the co-pay end of the prescription.

The next type of testosterone replacement therapy will be a "buccal tablet" which delivers the testosterone transmucosally. It will be developed so it dissolves underneath your tongue or inside your cheek. The buccal tablet is further down the pipeline of testosterone replacement therapies, but at least we have more options to get the juice back into you with or without that needle stick.


Got a comment on this article? Write to us at publications@tpan.com.

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!



  
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This article was provided by Positively Aware. It is a part of the publication Positively Aware. Visit Positively Aware's website to find out more about the publication.
 
See Also
More About Low Testosterone & HIV/AIDS
Sexual Dysfunction & HIV/AIDS
More Inspiring Stories of Gay Men With HIV

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