In addition, hormone shots lowered blood pressure and levels of blood fats called triglycerides. But they also resulted in elevated blood sugar levels.
HIV patients often develop fat deposits and high levels of cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar, which put them at risk for heart problems. Doctors believe this results from HIV drugs and a faulty immune system caused by the infection.
Medicines can treat some of these complications but fat buildups, which can affect other parts of the body, are harder to fix, although a healthy diet and lots of exercise can help.
The study results show that human growth hormone could be useful for HIV patients with abdominal fat accumulations and normal blood sugar levels, although it's "not a panacea," said study co-author Dr. Steven Grinspoon of Massachusetts General Hospital.
He called the approach experimental and said new AIDS drugs with fewer side effects are needed.
While there were fewer side effects with lower doses, Emory University AIDS expert Dr. Jeffrey Lennox called the results "disappointing." He said they suggest that hormone shots have limited use at best for treating HIV-associated fat abnormalities.
The study appears in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association and was among reports prepared for presentation Sunday at the International AIDS Conference.