Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) DNA, consistently found in Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) tissues, was sought in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) of HIV-infected individuals. To determine quantitative relationships between the presence of KSHV DNA in PBMCs, CD4 cell counts, plasma HIV RNA levels, and the development of KS, we designed a cross-sectional study of prospectively collected PBMC samples from ongoing cohort studies. PBMCs were collected from 142 HIV-seropositive individuals in California, 7 of whom had a clinical diagnosis of KS. KSHV sequences were detected in extracted PBMC DNA by nested polymerase chain amplification using two nonoverlapping primer sets. KSHV DNA was detected in PBMCs of 5 of 7 (71%) subjects with KS and in 18 of 135 (13%) HIV-infected subjects without KS. Among HIV-seropositive individuals without KS, detection of KSHV was more common in men than women (19 versus 4%, p = 0.01) and was associated with lower mean CD4 percent (14.8 versus 20.7% CD4 cells, p = 0.03), lower mean CD4 cell count (244 versus 334 CD4 cells/microl, p = 0.05), and higher geometric mean plasma HIV RNA (4.83 versus 4.03 1og10 copies/ml, p = 0.0002). Semiquantitative analysis found 5 to 15,625 copies of KSHV per microgram of PBMC DNA with increased plasma HIV RNA levels and a trend toward increased subsequent development of KS in subjects with higher KSHV loads. The association of the presence of KSHV DNA in PBMCs with lower CD4 cell counts and higher plasma HIV RNA provides evidence of a relationship between immunosuppression, HIV replication, and KSHV expression.