MIRI, Malaysia - The Miri City Council (MCC) has found several foot masseurs to be AIDS carriers, suspecting that they could be offering sex services.
The council is now considering mandatory sexually transmitted disease screening for all foreign masseurs employed in the city.
To do this, the council has to introduce a by-law and a meeting with officials from the Environment and Public Health Ministry has been scheduled on Friday to discuss this.
MCC plans to subject masseurs to a full-blood test every six months, making it the first local government in the state and possibly even the country, to impose such a stringent ruling.
The council has also categorised masseurs as 'non-professional' workers because under the Malaysian Immigration Act, foreign masseurs are categorised as 'professional workers' and are not compelled to undergo health screening before entering Malaysia.
Miri Mayor Lawrence Lai said Wednesday that the council wanted be extra careful with the activities and goings-on in reflexology centres after doctors found foreign masseurs having AIDS.
"Foot massage centres are mushrooming all over our city. There are those that are licensed but there are also many operating illegally. MCC is very worried that these places may become centres spreading sexually-transmitted diseases," he said.
Besides the mandatory screening and re-categorisation of masseurs, Lai said his council has launched regular surprise checks on massage centres, operations against illegal massage outlets and set up rules compelling foreign masseurs found with AIDS and STD to leave Miri immediately and barring them from working here.
Lai said there were more than 60 premises registered as "foot-massage" centres in this city, many operating in obscure places located along the backlanes and even inside motels and shoplots.
Even in licensed places, masseurs offered 'extra-services' upon request by the clients.
An hour's service could cost up to RM200 (S$84.34), depending on the 'physical attributes' of these masseurs, according to customers.