To study the viral loads of human endogenous retrovirus HERV-K (HML-2) type 1 and type 2 in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), we measured the viral loads of HERV-K (HML-2) type 1 and type 2 using nucleic acid sequence-based amplification (NASBA) technology. We analyzed plasma samples from RA patients (n = 79) and healthy volunteers (HV, n = 46) and synovial fluid samples from RA (n = 10) and osteoarthritis (OA, n = 10) patients. HERV-K type 1 and type 2 viruses were detected and quantified for the majority of plasma and synovial fluid samples from RA patients. HERV-K type 1 and type 2 viral loads were significantly elevated in RA patients compared with HV in plasma (P < 0.0001) and from RA patients compared with OA patients in synovial fluid (type 1: P = 0.0007; type 2: P = 0.023). Moreover, an association was observed between the HERV-K type 1 viral load in plasma and the disease activity in RA patients (RA patients with low activity versus high activity P = 0.0129; RA patients with intermediate activity versus high activity P = 0.037). Our findings showed that HERV-K (HML-2) viral load can be detected in plasma samples from RA patients, with higher levels observed for those with active disease. There was an association of HERV-K type 1 levels with the disease activity.