© The Author(s) 2018. Background Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) has been implicated in lymphomagenesis and can be found infecting tumor cells and in plasma at lymphoma diagnosis, especially in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected patients. Our aim was to evaluate the usefulness of plasma EBV load as biomarker and prognostic factor in HIV-positive patients with lymphomas. Methods EBV loads were measured by polymerase chain reaction in plasma samples of 81 HIV-positive patients' lymphomas at different moments: within 1 year before lymphoma diagnosis, at diagnosis, and at complete response (CR). Control samples included HIV-negative patients with lymphomas and HIV-positive patients without neoplasia or opportunistic infections. Results HIV-positive patients with lymphomas had more frequently-detectable EBV load at lymphoma diagnosis (53%) than either HIV-negative patients with the same lymphoma type (16%; P <.001) or HIV-positive individuals without neoplasia or opportunistic infection (1.2%; P <.001). HIV-positive lymphoma patients with detectable EBV load in plasma at lymphoma diagnosis had statistically significant decrease of EBV load at CR. High EBV load (>5000 copies/mL) at lymphoma diagnosis was an independent negative prognostic factor for overall survival and progression-free survival in HIV-positive patients with lymphomas. Detectable plasma EBV loads identified HIV-positive subjects that would eventually develop lymphoma (area under the curve, 82%; 95% CI: 0.67-0.96). Conclusions Plasma EBV load can be used as a biomarker and as a prognostic factor in HIV-positive patients with lymphomas. The presence of the EBV load in the plasma of an HIV-positive patient can be an early predictor of lymphoma development.