Abstract Background Opportunistic oral infections can be found in over 80% of HIV + patients, often causing debilitating lesions that also contribute to deterioration in nutritional health. Although appreciation for the role that the microbiota is likely to play in the initiation and/or enhancement of oral infections has grown considerably in recent years, little is known about the impact of HIV infection on host-microbe interactions within the oral cavity. In the current study, we characterize modulations in the bacterial composition of the lingual microbiome in patients with treated and untreated HIV infection. Bacterial species profiles were elucidated by microarray assay and compared between untreated HIV infected patients, HIV infected patients receiving antiretroviral therapy, and healthy HIV negative controls. The relationship between clinical parameters (viral burden and CD4+ T cell depletion) and the loss or gain of bacterial species was evaluated in each HIV patient group. Results In untreated HIV infection, elevated viremia was associated with significantly higher proportions of potentially pathogenic Veillonella, Prevotella, Megasphaera, and Campylobacter species in the lingual microbiome than observed in healthy controls. The upsurge in the prevalence of potential pathogens was juxtaposed by diminished representation of commensal Streptococcus and Veillonella species. Colonization of Neisseria flavescens was lower in the lingual microbiome of HIV infected patients receiving antiretroviral therapy than in uninfected controls. Conclusions Our findings provide novel insights into the potential impact of HIV infection and antiretroviral therapy on the community structure of the oral microbiome, and implicate potential mechanisms that may increase the capacity of non-commensal species to gain a stronger foothold.