This article describes syphilis trends, characteristics of patients from 2000 to 2003 in France and trends of the benzylpenicillin benzathine 2.4 million UI sales from 2001 to 2003. The ongoing surveillance system for syphilis case reporting since 2001 has been set up in volunteer settings, mostly public settings where STI treatment is offered. Clinical case reporting is complemented by sexual behavioural data based on a self-administered questionnaire. From 2000 to 2003, 1089 syphilis cases were reported in France, increasing from 37 cases in 2000 to 428 in 2003. Overall, 96% of syphilis cases were in men with a mean age of 36.5 years and 70% of whom were born in France. The proportion of syphilis cases with HIV co-infection decreased over time from 60% in 2000 to 33% in 2003. The most affected area by the syphilis epidemic is the Ile-de-France region, mainly the city of Paris. The greatest proportion of syphilis cases diagnosed in men who have sex with men (MSM) were in the Ile-de-France region, where they made up 87% of cases, compared with 75% in other regions. Among the patients who completed the self-administered questionnaire on sexual behaviour, 83% reported having casual sex partners in the 3 months prior to their syphilis diagnosis. Trends in the sales of benzylpenicillin benzathine 2.4 million UI in private pharmacies are similar to those observed in the surveillance system, and increased between 2001 and 2003. In conclusion, syphilis transmission is still ongoing in France in 2003 and the role of unprotected oral sex in the transmission of syphilis should be emphasised.