With the collapse of socialism, the number of nongovernmental organizations in Eastern Europe increased dramatically, as part of democracy and capitalism building. In the West, NGOs have served as key players in shaping the response of the HIV epidemic, reflecting both the withdrawal of the state from service provision in line with neoliberal reforms and the activist roots from which many of these organizations originated. As a result, AIDS NGOs and the people who work in them are often characterized as engaging in an activist endeavor in order to affect social and political change that will enable better prevention and care. This article explores the extent to which a similar framework applies to AIDS NGOs in Poland and Eastern Europe, more generally, where the notion of "anti-politics" and disengagement from political activism remains strong. As they developed in Poland, AIDS NGOs have focused on caring for clients, cultivating a professional identity, and abstaining from politics, to the eschewal of advocacy activities on behalf of their clients. This orientation has implications for the types of HIV prevention programs these organizations offer, as well as the possibilities for collaborating with researchers and service providers from the West.

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